September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and every American can make a difference in helping to prevent Veteran suicide. Of the 30,000 suicides that are committed each year, on average, more than 20 percent are veterans. Suicide Prevention Month, which coincides with Suicide Prevent Week from September 9th through September 15th and World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, serves as a reminder to organizations, communities, and individuals that they can make a difference through advocacy, education, and prevention. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ mission to prevent Veteran suicide can only be achieved when members of the Military, Veteran, and civilian community work together to raise awareness, involvement, and knowledge about Veteran suicide and mental health.
In 2007, The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs established the Veterans Crisis Line, a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, and text messaging service that connects Veterans in crisis, and their families and friends with qualified and caring responders from the VA who provide support, referrals to local VA services, and fast-tracked mental health care at VA hospitals. Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 640,000 calls and made more than 23,000 life-saving rescues. The anonymous online chat, a service added to the Veterans Crisis Line in 2009, has helped more than 50,000 people, and in 2011, the newly implemented text messaging service provided another outlet for Veterans to receive 24/7 support. To access round-the-clock help and support from the Veterans Crisis Line call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or send a text to 838255.
Learning to recognize the warning signs of suicide is a crucial component of prevention. The signs of suicide may not always be obvious, but it is important to be aware of behaviors that may indicate that a Veteran is in crisis. Hopelessness, anxiety, agitation, mood swings, sleeplessness, rage, anger, risky behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, and becoming withdrawn are all indicators that a Veteran may be at-risk and needs support. Furthermore, thinking or talking about, as well planning and attempting suicide are all behaviors that require immediate medical attention. Suicide Prevention Month serves as a reminder that knowing the warning signs and taking action to help is an integral part of helping to prevent Veteran suicide. For further information about the warning signs please visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/SignsOfCrisis.
Suicide Prevention Month is a call to action to every American to stand-up and support the Veteran community. There are many ways to help including spreading the word about the Veterans Crisis Line and visiting www.VeteransCrisisLine.net/SPMSupport to download free Suicide Prevention Month materials that educate individuals about the suicide risk face by Veterans and the resources that are available. Through education, we can all be advocates for preventing Veteran suicide.