September is recognized as Suicide Prevention month—a dedicated time aimed at educating clinicians, health care staff and the general public about suicide prevention and potential warning signs.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death nationally and affects people of all ages, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. For males, suicide is the seventh leading cause of death and it is the second leading cause of death among all young people, ages 10 to 34. According to the latest CDC data, rates for suicide continue to rise, but early identification and intervention can prevent suicides and assist individuals to lead happy, healthy lives.
“Here at Charleston VAMC, and in the VA at large, we take the mission of reducing Veteran suicide very seriously,” said Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Director Scott Isaacks. “That’s why we have dedicated programs, partnerships and outreach to decrease the numbers we all hear about in the news—because even one Veteran suicide is too many.”
The medical center’s Suicide Prevention Program provides educational talks, materials and training in the community to spread information on how to recognize suicidal behaviors in Veterans and connect those in need of intervention with the immediate help they need by connecting them to the Veterans Crisis Line. The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, anonymous and confidential resource that’s available to anyone, even Veterans not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. Veterans, or concerned family members and friends of an at-risk Veteran, can dial 1-800-273-8255 and then press 1 to speak with a trained Veterans Crisis Line responder at any hour of the day. The service is also available by texting a message to 838255 or via online chat. Charleston VAMC’s Suicide Prevention Program receives direct alerts from the Veterans Crisis Line and intervenes to assist local Veterans in distress.
On Saturday, Sept. 8, Charleston VAMC will partner with several Charleston community organizations for the 10th annual Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Expo held in downtown Charleston at Marion Square. The event runs from 9:30 a.m. until 12 p.m. The expo’s goal is to educate the community about suicide and reduce the stigma that often surrounds conversations related to mental health and treatment.
“Research has revealed that the risk for suicide is lower among men and women Veterans who receive VA health care—that’s why our Suicide Prevention outreach is so incredibly important,” said Isaacks. “Once we get Veterans plugged into the VA health care services they need, their risk for suicide drops. We reach eligible Veterans and encourage them to enroll in VA health care – sharing with them what they can expect from the friendly service and high-quality care at Charleston VAMC. We want to be there for our Veterans and we’re focused on saving lives.”
Recognizing key warning signs and lending an empathetic ear to Veterans or others who may be contemplating suicide are key things that anyone can do to intervene in a crisis and possibly prevent a death. VA’s #BeThere campaign provides training, talking points and guidance for those wishing to help fight the recent rise in suicide rates.
Warning signs of imminent suicide risk include:
- Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights – seemingly without thinking
- Showing violent behavior, such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights, engaging in self-destructive violence, feeling rage or uncontrolled anger, or seeking revenge
- Giving away prized possessions, putting affairs in order, tying up loose end, and/or making out a will
- Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself
Learn more, find helpful resources and download a suicide prevention month toolkit by visiting the online #BeThere campaign page at: www.veteranscrisisline.net/support/be-there.