News

Meet the Minnesota American Legion’s Suicide Prevention Coalition

Andrea Perry works in suicide prevention for the Minneapolis VA. She spoke at the Fall Conference in Mahnomen.

Department of Minnesota to partner with Minneapolis VA
Online meeting slated for Dec. 17

By Mike Parry

WASECA — A new program is forming, and it is aimed at halting veteran suicides. It is called the Minnesota American Legion Family Suicide Prevention Coalition.

“This coalition is not actually formed yet — that is what we are aiming to do — get members interested and create a new coalition together,” said Minneapolis VA Suicide Prevention Community Engagement and Partnerships Coordinator Andrea Perry, who spoke at the Department Fall Conference in Mahnomen in October.

Calling all posts
Are you interesting in helping out from the very start?

Perry, whom some may know by her maiden name, Sandberg, is leading an informational meeting happening over Microsoft Teams video conference from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17.

Contact Perry at andrea.sandberg@va.gov or Department of Minnesota Adjutant Mike Maxa mmaxa@mnlegion.org to get the Microsoft Teams link.

How it began

Maxa said the idea for the coalition started when a veteran contacted him and introduced him to Perry.

“I attended the Southeastern Minnesota Coalition meeting and thought the Department of Minnesota needs to be part of this,” Maxa said. ““I felt the department can use its tools, social media, website, the Legionnaire and our newly formed Media & Communications Committee to help disseminate the information.”

Maxa asked local posts across Minnesota to keep an open mind regarding suicide and helping veterans in need.

“Get the veteran in contact with the service that can help them. The local posts would most likely be the first line of defense,” Maxa said.

What is it?

Perry said this kind of coalition is a community-based effort that aims to ensure health, safety and well-being of servicemembers, veterans and their families where they live, work and thrive.

After establishing the American Legion Family Suicide Prevention Coalition, the first order of business, she said, will be training on what to look for.

“We need your help. Your voice and expertise are valuable in helping prevent suicide,” Perry said. “Please consider joining us in the fight to eliminate suicide in veterans, servicemembers and their families within our Minnesota communities.”

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Introduction letter from partners in our fight against veteran suicides

Editor’s note: The American Legion Department of Minnesota is doubling down on its commitment to fight veteran suicides. (See story on Page 1.) This letter is from the VA team that is working with the department in efforts to prevent veteran suicides.

Dear American Legion Community Partner,

Suicide is a national public health issue that impacts individuals from all walks of life. It does not discriminate by age, race, or financial status. Reasons people die by suicide are complex, and it takes a village to address these reasons.

Veterans are an integral part of our communities and approximately 369,000 Veterans currently call Minnesota home. Here in Minnesota, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10-34 year-olds and eighth leading cause of death in the state. Each year more than 6,000 veterans die by suicide in the U.S., a rate 1.5 times the rate of the general population. Suicide is the most preventable form of death.

We cannot do the work alone and need our communities to assist in preventing veteran suicide.

Community engagement is the epicenter of the public health approach to preventing suicide. One way in which we are empowering communities to prevent suicide, is by starting a statewide American Legion Family Suicide Prevention Coalition. Coalitions are evidence-based, action-focused groups that take a multidimensional approach at solving the national suicide issue. We aim to reach all veterans, servicemembers and their families, where they live work and thrive — their local communities.

We need your help. Your voice and expertise are valuable in helping prevent suicide. Please consider joining us in the fight to eliminate suicide in veterans, servicemembers and their families within our Minnesota communities.

You are cordially invited to an informational meeting to learn more on how to get involved:

Informational Meeting Friday, Dec. 17, 2021: 1-2:30 p.m. (1300-1430 military time).

Contact me at andrea.sandberg@va.gov or Department of Minnesota Adjutant Mike Maxa mmaxa@mnlegion.org to get the Microsoft Teams link.

Or call in (audio only): 1-872-701-0185 Phone Conference ID: 478 162 81#

With your involvement, you are showing commitment to support veterans and you are playing an important role in preventing suicide. If you have questions or would like to get this meeting on your calendar with an Outlook calendar invite, please email Andrea.Sandberg@va.gov
Thank you for your time and consideration,

Andrea Sandberg, Laura Kunstleben, Sarah Kemp Tabbut, Jon Feiock and Theresa Hoga

Minneapolis VA Community Engagement and Partnerships Coordinator Team

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