The Staten Island community comes together to tackle the problems that veterans and active-duty military members are facing, such as food insecurity and mental health issues.
By K.M. D’Ambrosio
Photo Credit: K.M. D’Ambrosio
From left to right: Paul Ditreich, Lyn Ferrante, Clarissa Alliano, Tami DiCostanzo, Sebastian Shaw, Michael Matthews, and David Arcecuellar were members of the Mental Health Panel Discussion.
Members of a mental health task force met on April 18 for a panel that focused on mental health issues and resources available to veterans.
Clarissa Alliano was a panelist representing the Veterans Yoga Project.
“We are there to serve,” said Alliano. “Those that serve or served.”
The panel met at 2:30 pm in the Lecture Hall of building 1P and included representatives from organizations such as NAMI NYC Staten Island and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
One issue discussed by the panelists was the food insecurity faced by those who have served in the military and their families.
According to the Feeding America website, one in nine veterans who are of working age live in households that suffer from food insecurity. Additionally, in 2020, food insecurity affected 24% of active-duty service members.
One resource available to help combat this food insecurity on Staten Island is NEON Nutrition Kitchen. This organization is located at 340 Bay Street, Staten Island. On Fridays from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, they offer free food specifically for military families, veterans, and active-duty service members.
The panel also focused on mental health issues faced by those that serve or have served within the military.
Lyn Ferrante was a representative for NAMI NYC Staten Island. The acronym NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Health. Part of what NAMI offers are family support groups.
They have Family to Family classes for loved ones of those with mental health issues. It teaches them techniques and skills on how to best help and understand those within their lives that suffer with their mental health.
NAMI Homefront also specifically offers resources for military families, service members and veterans.
David Arcecuellar, a Veteran’s Peer Support Advocate, spoke of how beneficial it is to speak with others who have gone through similar experiences.
One piece of advice he offered for service members was to make a copy for medical injuries, to ensure that there is a record of them.
“If there’s no proof,” said Arcecuellar. “Our sacrifice, in a way, won’t be recognized.”
Other resources that are available to veterans come from the Veteran Yoga Project. They offer a variety of classes, both in person and online; they also have a YouTube Practice Library for those who cannot attend class.
Alliano spoke in particular about Yoga Nidra Guided Relaxation classes, which are hosted online on Tuesdays from 9:00 pm to 9:45 pm and on Saturdays from 8:00 pm to 8:45 pm.
Panelist Sebastian Shaw works for the Department of Veteran affairs, specifically focusing on suicide prevention.
Shaw spoke of how for every suicide committed, it is estimated that 150 people are impacted.
According to Veterans Affairs and the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, in 2020 6,146 veterans committed suicide.
Shaw spoke of Lethal Means Safety as another tool for preventing suicide. This practice works to limit access to instruments that could be used to commit suicide, such as firearms, from those that are suicidal.
The phone number 988 was also referenced as a resource for preventing suicide. 988 is the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline that is available for everyone, not just service members.
If someone is suicidal or in crisis it can be used as an alternative option rather than calling 911. To reach the Veterans Crisis Line specifically, call 988 and then press one.
Paul Ditreich, a retired colonel and member of Veterans of Foreign Wars, spoke about suicide within the military community.
“I think it’s absurd that we still have twenty veterans a day killing themselves,” said Ditreich. “That’s a decrease.”
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