La Crosse Veteran helps break stigma against military mental health

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)- It’s National Mental Health Week, but for Military Members it means a little more.

Suicide rates among military members have gone up over the last year, but there are programs and people trying to change that.

Arianna Cirincione served in the Air Force for 13 years.

Now, as a veteran, she’s on a mission to help other vets down the right path.

“I just love the military community. I understand it, I get it and I think in mental health counseling, while there are counselors that may not have a military background that would be great counselors I have found that there’s a certain connection and comradery being able to be that person for veterans who need help,” said Coulee Recovery Center Veterans Program Coordinator, Arianna Cirincione.

The U.S. Department of Defense says that Military Suicides are up 15% from the last year, a number that Cirnceone says is way too high.

“That’s not okay, that’s absolutely not okay. Conversations have to be had,” said Cirincione.

The La Crosse County Veterans Services go out and find area veterans to help guide them and get them the resources they need.

“We want to educate veterans in advance and let them know what’s out there so that when the time comes and things do become difficult they can reach out to our office and we can help them through that,” said La Crosse County Veterans Service Officer, Adam Flood.

The pandemic lead to phone calls rather than face-to-face meetings, which created challenges.

“If I sit with a veteran I can tell through verbal cues the things they may not be saying, but over the phone that becomes a lot more difficult unless they outright saying it,” said Flood.

Flood, and Cirincione both say there’s stigma around military members needing mental health help. Their goal is to break it.

“That’s another mindset that needs to shift, we need to say hey, one of our brothers and sisters over here are not doing good whatever I need to do to pick up the slack, let me do it because they need help,” said Cirincione.

Although she no longer wears the uniform, Cirincione still stands with and for those who do.