The Naval Air Station in Meridian will host one of several training sessions hosted by Mississippi Veterans Affairs to train clergy throughout the state in veteran oriented suicide awareness and prevention. 

Veterans Affairs spokesperson Caroline Kennard said earlier this month that these training sessions are in response to high rates of suicide among veterans that experts have called an “epidemic.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, over 20 veterans in the United States will commit suicide each day.

In response to this epidemic, MSVA, partnering with the Mississippi National Guard, Keesler Air Force Base and Naval Air Station Meridian is inviting clergy from around Mississippi for training on suicide awareness and prevention at two National Guard bases and two active-duty bases in September. 

MSVA Executive Director Stacey Pickering said that local pastors are uniquely positioned to serve the role of the chaplain. In military training the chaplain is promoted as a trusted confidant when dealing with societal issues. 

“As an Air Force chaplain, I have personally counseled many active duty and guardsmen through the stressors of military life,” Pickering said. “My personal experience has informed me of the need to better educate and equip our clergy with tools to combat this suicide epidemic among our veterans and service members in Mississippi.”



The one-day training at each location will be held at Camp Shelby on September 10, Naval Air Station Meridian on September 17, and Keesler Air Force Base on September 24. The MSVA has set a limit of 50 participants per session at each location.

The purpose of the training is to make local clergy aware of the stressors service members and veterans face along with the resources provided by the VA to assist. It is being held in conjunction with September being identified as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month within the Department of Defense and VA.

Sessions will be conducted by MSVA staff, VA Medical Center personnel, and active duty and National Guard chaplains on indicators of suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety exhibited by service members and veterans. 

Any interested clergy can register on EventBrite (MSVA Suicide Awareness Training). For any questions, contact Caroline Kennard at ckennard@msva.ms.gov or by calling (601) 576-4853.