By Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - A state-appointed Illinois task force aimed at preventing suicides among veterans has met in Belleville.

The panel, set up by the General Assembly and made up of state lawmakers and mental health and legal professionals, has a goal of submitting resource allotment recommendations by the end of the year to the Legislature, the Belleville News-Democrat ( ) reported.

One meeting was held last week at Southwestern Illinois College, and at least three more public meetings are planned through next month.

Vietnam War veterans told the task force about their concerns with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. Vietnam War veteran Mick Eddington said the VA hospital staff he’s met too quickly prescribe pills for mental health issues.

“They were just trying to shut us up,” he said. “So they doped us up.”

Eddington said many problems that lead combat veterans to kill themselves arise from difficulties with making adjustments to civilian life.

Task force member Paul Schimpf, who retired from the Marines in 2009, said an issue that people have brought up is weak connections that veterans feel with the broader society.

“It’s a little bit counterintuitive,” Schimpf said. “We are connected today in that everybody’s got a smartphone. But typing something on Facebook is not a substitution for some interaction.”

Schimpf said that, to some extent, there’s a risk for everyone to have a mental illness.

“But when you’re a veteran and you have a massive lifestyle change, that’s going to be something difficult to deal with,” he said.


Information from: Belleville News-Democrat,

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