Punta Gorda Police Department creates task force to help veterans in crisis
Warning: This story discusses the topic of suicide that some people may find disturbing
A new program at the Punta Gorda Police Department is hoping to assist veterans in crisis.
The Veteran Crisis Assistance Task Force is staffed by five veterans on the police force, all from different military branches. They’re trained to help veterans and active military members who are in crisis.
“It would be great if you had a veteran to speak to these individuals in crisis who could understand the culture, what they’ve been through,” said Punta Gorda police Officer Brandon Meddaugh, the team leader for the task force and an Air Force veteran. “It could be something as helping a veteran find shelter, food, a service dog.”
The program could have helped Xinhua Mesenburg. The 25-year-old airman died by suicide in January of 2019.
While he was an airman in the airforce, he handled weapons, according to his family.
“He was going to be a lifer in the Air Force,” said Mitch Mesenburg, XinHua’s father. “That was the last time we saw him alive.”
Mitch Mesenburg, of Charlotte County, said if the military had help it could offer his son that wouldn’t affect his military career, it could have made a difference.
The Air Force would have changed his son’s role if he asked for mental health help.
The Mesenburgs have high hopes for the Punta Gorda police program, especially considering its made up of veterans who can relate to those in crisis.
“They’re trained, and the need to be there for them,” said Shannon Mesenburg, XinHua’s mother. “I think it’s just priceless.”
Mental health resources in Southwest Florida
Below are mental health resources available to Southwest Floridians at the national and local level.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
David Lawrence Center (Collier County)
National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County
National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry Counties
The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a free handbook
Circle of Care: A Guidebook for Mental Health Caregivers
Collier County Mental Health Court
Lee County Mental Health Court
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Local Support Groups: Anxiety and Depression Association of America
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help)
Home Base SWFL offers help to veterans