Substance use disorder recovery center concerned about veterans suicide rate

West Virginia

KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. (WDVM) — One thing worth noting as we observe Veterans Day is the higher suicide rate among service vets. In West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, mental health counselors are focused on prevention.

At the Mountaineer Recovery Center in Berkeley County, professionals working to fight addiction are aware that vets are one and a half times more likely to die by suicide. Residential and outpatient treatment programs at the facility are focused on sobriety and leading fulfilling, productive lives.

“The different instances that may happen in the military can cause long-standing suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, and many of those who suffer with that condition self-medicate with drugs or alcohol,” said Jonathan Hartiens, CEO of Mountaineer Recovery Center and Mountaineer Behavioral Health.

Terry Bullock at the center is big on social media to connect those who need a lifeline, to know that support is out there when needed.

“It’s an outlet to connect with different individuals in the community, striving to do well, specifically because they suffer from this disease,” said Bullock.

Stephanie Lowe works with those in treatment, thrilled with the success of those who overcome addiction.

“They come back in and they talk to us about the improvements that they have made not only in their life but emotionally and the support system that’s here,” said Lowe.

Dana Penwell partners with Lowe and, from sales of congratulatory gifts, is able to provide financial support for starting that journey to self-sufficiency.

“The funds are there for a driver’s license or a Social Security card or whatever they may need when they leave here when they’re discharged,” Penwell explained.

That may even include a first month’s rent after being an inpatient at the recovery center.

Specialists here stress the importance of peer engagement. Research shows that the suicide rate during the pandemic has increased among the general population, as well as for military service veterans.

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