September is Veteran’s Suicide Awareness month. Suicide is an issue that impacts many veterans and their families, and there is help available.
A report from the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs states that as of 2014, 20 U.S. veterans die from suicide each day.
The report states:
“In 2014, an average of 20 veterans died from suicide each day. Six of the 20 were users of VA services. In 2014, veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults, while veterans constituted 8.5 percent of the US population. In 2010, veterans accounted for 22 percent of all deaths from suicide and 9.7 percent of the population. Approximately 66 percent of all veteran deaths from suicide were the result of firearm injuries. There is continued evidence of high burden of suicide among middle-aged and older adult Veterans.
“In 2014, approximately 65 percent of all veterans who died from suicide were aged 50 years or older. After adjusting for differences in age and gender, risk for suicide was 21 percent higher among Veterans when compared to U.S. civilian adults. After adjusting for differences in age, risk for suicide was 18 percent higher among male veterans when compared to U.S. civilian adult males. (2014) After adjusting for differences in age, risk for suicide was 2.4 times higher among female veterans when compared to U.S. civilian adult females.”
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs does offer assistance for those dealing with the issue.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs website, the VA established The Veterans Crisis Line in 2007. This is a free, confidential, 24-hour hotline for Veterans and their families and friends. Since its launch in 2007, the veterans Crisis line has answered more than 1.25 million calls and made more than 39,000 lifesaving rescues. To reach someone right away you can dial a number and speak with someone, send a text, or just as easily start an online chat.
The VA website states those receiving care from the VA had a 16 percent decrease in suicide. Some signs of concerning behavior include:
• Hopelessness, feeling like there is no way out
• Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness or mood swings
• Feeling like there is no reason to live
• Rage or anger
• Engaging in risky activities without thinking
• Increasing alcohol or drug use
• Withdrawing from family and friends
The website also lists actions people can take if they notice any danger signs. These activities include starting a conversation, let them know what prompted you to initiate the conversation. Stay calm and let the person know you want to help them. Don’t leave the person alone. Listen, express concern and reassure the individual. Let the person know you care and that you take the situation seriously. Letting the person know you care will go a long way in establishing a support system. Create a safety plan and ask the person if they have access to anything that could harm them and call for help if you feel the situation is dangerous.
“You don’t have to be a trained professional to support someone who may be going through a difficult time,” Dr. Caitlin Thompson, Director of the VA Office of Suicide Prevention stated in a press release. “We want to let people know that things they do every day, like calling an old friend or checking in with a neighbor, are strong preventive factors for suicide because they help people feel less alone. That’s what this campaign is about — encouraging people to be there for each other.”
The VA website advises individuals experiencing such thoughts and behavior can make simple yet effective lifestyle changes to help alleviate these harmful thoughts and behaviors. These can include getting exercise, taking time off of work, and spending time with friends and family to avoid isolation.
The Veteran’s crisis line can be reached at 1(800)-273-8255. The VA advises anyone at risk or feeling uneasy should talk to their health care provider.