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1st Annual Veterans’ Mental Health Summit

By VETcare Oregon Staff

This month, we kicked off our 1st Annual Veterans’ Mental Health Summit at the Oregon National Guard Readiness Center in Dallas, Oregon. The Willamette Health Council and Deer Hollow Recovery graciously helped us host this event for our local heroes and community partners.

It was a privilege to learn about the stigma behind mental health and the effects of trauma from our presenters, Jennifer Hilton from WestCare Foundation, Matt Quackenbush with Deer Hollow and Jared Nesary with the Yakima Police Department. Each speaker brought different topics to the table about mental health.

The morning started with a personal story from Yakima Police Officer and former U.S. Marine Jared Nesary. He candidly opened up about his life, and what made him want to seek help for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After his story, another presentation was followed up by Deer Hollow’s Director of Education and Training, Matt Quackenbush, who covered the topics of PTSD and PTSI, which stands for “post-traumatic stress injury” a term often used to reduce the stigma associated with PTSD. His insightful points discussing the effects of trauma on brain development and other parts of the human body became a powerful reminder of the seriousness behind mental health. It’s okay to be vulnerable and admit that you need help.

Another highlight during the other half of the event was Jennifer Hilton’s presentation on Veteran suicide. According to recent studies, the number of suicide rates for Veterans decreased from 22 lives per day to 17 lives per day . Jennifer stated that despite the slight decrease over the years, people have tremendously succeeded in becoming more aware of mental health and taking serious action on this matter.

Towards the end of the day, our community members were able to connect with our attendees with resources regarding mental health and recovery. It was also refreshing to sit in on a speaker panel that featured our VETcare Program Director, Roy McClain, Interim Director of Operations of WestCare Texas, Peggy Quigg, Sean Dalton, who is a Mentor at Steps Recovery Center, and VETcare Case Manager Mark Pekkola. As former military servicemembers themselves, each panelist spoke about their struggles with mental health and opened up to our audience. This event was not only an educational experience but also familiarized our Veteran Services program to the community and created an impact for our local heroes.

Thank you to everyone who came out to support and attend! We are beyond grateful for every one of you.