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VA offering free training for rural clergy

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Chaplain Center, in conjunction with the Salem VA Medical Center, is offering a one-day workshop to educate rural clergy about how they can partner with the VA to support rural Veterans. Community clergy, chaplains and Veterans Service Organization representatives are invited to attend.

It has been estimated that one-fourth of individuals who seek help for a mental health problem do so from clergy. “Many people are exclusively seen by a member of the clergy, and not by a physician or mental health professional,” said Chaplain Jeni Cook, Associate Director, National VA Chaplain Center. Chaplain Cook is leading the Rural Clergy Training Program, which is supported by the VA Office of Rural Health (ORH).

Rural Veterans in particular, have limited healthcare options, especially for mental health care. In their small communities and their military culture, the stigma associated with mental health problems can be quite strong, reducing their motivation to seek care.

“It’s important that clergy recognize the presence and severity of mental health problems and know when and how to collaborate with health care professionals,” Cook said.

Workshop attendees will learn about available VA benefits and services, and who they can connect at their local VA to request information or assistance. Presenters will also address post-deployment readjustment challenges, the psychological and spiritual effects of war trauma on survivors, and the important role of community (clergy/congregations) in helping to reduce mental health stigma and support Veterans and their families.

The training event in Staunton will be on April 10, 2012 from 8:30am-4:00pm at the Frontier Culture Museum. Workshops will also be held in rural locations in North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Seating for the workshop is limited and pre-registration is required. Registration deadline is March 27, 2012. For more information visit or contact Jim Goalder at 1-800-872-9975,

augusta free press
augusta free press