Forging connections, discovering resources


Veterans gathered from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m Sept. 15 in Washburn’s Union Hall for the Fifth Annual Veterans Affairs Mental Health Summit.

“This has been such an exciting time for us because in the past with the summit, our national folks gave us a bit of an agenda,” said Stephanie Davis, suicide prevention coordinator for VA Eastern Kansas. “This time they gave us a little more room to decide what we want to do. We were able to jump on this opportunity to have some of these non-traditional veteran service organizations come in, because these are the grass-roots organizations that are really doing a lot of the ‘boots on the ground’ work.”

The summit held a resource fair throughout the day, as well as a student-veteran panel and two sessions of TED talks summit participants were free to visit.

“It’s wonderful to have these TED talk presenters tell us about what the veterans are doing out there to help,” said Jonathan Farrell-Higgins, acting chief of psychology for the Topeka VA Campus. “I think it’s gone great.”

Each TED talk lasted approximately 10 minutes, followed by a 5 minute period for questions. During these talks, different programs had the opportunity to talk about what they had to offer and how veterans could get involved.

“I think it really brings our community partners together with VA,” said Farrell-Higgins. “[We are able to better communicate] what we’re doing and what services we offer at the Veteran’s Hospital. Then we can link our veterans up with these community resources so that when they leave our care the community can help pick up that care on their end.”

At the end of the event, attendees were able to network and visit with the programs that were present at the event.

“I am excited for the opportunities that I think are going to expand from having all of us come together,” said Davis. “What I’m watching is people exchanging business cards, and I’m watching wheels turning in their heads. I think what I’m seeing is the beginning of some improvements that we can make in the quality of life for the veterans that we serve.”