September is Suicide Prevention Month and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is holding several events to outreach to Veterans who may be struggling while also encouraging members of the community to check in on and be there for the Veterans in their lives.
Suicide is a complex national public health issue that affects communities nationwide, with more than 45,000 Americans, including more than 6,000 Veterans, dying by suicide every year. But suicide is preventable. VA is using a community-driven approach to prevent suicide and finding innovative ways to deliver support and care to all 20 million U.S. Veterans whenever and wherever they need it.
“An estimated 20 Veterans die by suicide each day,” said Charleston VAMC Director Scott Isaacks. “Another part to that story is that 14 of those 20 Veterans did not received care in the VA. It is crucial that Veterans know that we are here to support them, and for their families and friends to know that we care for their loved ones. Our team of mental health care professionals are specially trained to provide evidence-based treatment to those men and women who sacrificed to protect the freedoms of our country. There is hope.”
In addition to specialized clinical care, VA’s #BeThere campaign stresses the importance of personal connections in helping to combat Veteran suicide. It puts the power of prevention in the hands of every citizen who may know and love a Veteran by encouraging small acts of empathy and providing training for how to talk to an at-risk Veteran, recognizing potential signs of suicide, how to find help and more.
“It is our goal to be there for Veterans in need, to decrease the number of lives lost to Veteran suicide, and to normalize the conversation around mental health and suicide prevention,” Isaacks said. “It doesn’t take special training to prevent suicide. In fact, a simple act of kindness, such as sending a check-in text or taking a Veteran out for coffee can make a big impact.”
Charleston VAMC is holding several events in the month of September to raise awareness about Veteran suicide.
Later this month, our VA is partnering with Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center and NAMI Charleston for the 10th Annual Mental Health & Suicide Awareness Expo in downtown Charleston’s Marion Square. The event, originally scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7, was postponed due to Hurricane Dorian and will be rescheduled soon for a date yet to be determined. The community partners represented at this critical outreach event work hand-in-hand with VA to support suicide prevention and mental health by providing education in the community at large – meeting Veterans, their families and friends right where they are. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for details on when this event will occur.
Additionally, during the week of Sept. 9 – 13, and each subsequent Wednesday in September, Charleston VA’s Suicide Prevention team will partner with VA Police to distribute free gun locks to Veterans from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the main lobby of the hospital’s primary location in downtown Charleston.
Here are some additional actions you can take to Be There:
- Reach out to the Veterans in your life to show them you care.
- Know how to get help. Reach the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, then Press 1.
- Educate yourself on the warning signs of suicide, found on the Veterans Crisis Line website.
- Watch the free S.A.V.E. training video to equip yourself to respond with care and compassion if someone you know indicates they are having thoughts of suicide.