Nearly everyone has heard that suicide among veterans averages 20 per day.
Veterans are 22 percent more likely than civilians of the same age, and broken out by gender, the rate is a startling 2.5 times higher for women according to the latest Department of Veterans Affairs data.
The military used to have lower rates of suicide, but that changed about a decade ago. Now the VA and the Pentagon have started to pour resources into studying this problem. But, despite all the studies and research and reports that come out, nothing will ever improve unless those who are closest to these at-risk Veterans reach out in real, meaningful ways.
Many people – rather, most people – feel unqualified to reach out. We are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and making the situation worse. We are afraid that reaching out will commit us to one-term, emotionally exhausting effort. We simply don’t want to get too involved because we don’t want to get hurt.
Susquehanna Valley TRR recently sent me and Sue Schaffer, your Outreach Coordinator, to the Lebanon VA’s 5th Annual Community Mental Health Summit where suicide prevention was a central theme. We came away both informed and motivated to do what we can to help and want to share some thoughts and some tools with you:
- Be There — I want you to commit to being present. Just be there when you hear about someone who is in crisis is often the first step to getting real help for a person in crisis. You don’t need any special training – just the willingness to be there. I also encourage each of you to engage in the #BeThere campaign on your social media networks to spread the word.
- Means Matter — We need to begin thinking about access to immediately lethal means when a Veteran begins to show signs of being at risk of suicide. While some suicides are deliberative and involve careful planning, many appear to have been hastily decided-upon and to involve little or no planning. Means Matter resources are there to help concerned family and friends address the easy and immediate access to lethal means, helping the Veteran have time to think through their impulse and allowing family and friends time to help.
- Site Resources — SVTRR has added a new page to our website – Veterans in Crisis (https://svtrr.org/crisis). The information on this page links you to a variety of VA resources for both the Veteran in Crisis or someone who loves this Veteran.
Finally, if you are currently in crisis or need to talk to someone, reach out. You are not alone and there are many, many people who love and care for you. Or, call the crisis line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1). Or, call me (717) 951-8948 if you can call no one else. Just call someone.
Don’t give up.
Susquehanna Valley Team River Runner
#SVTRR #TRR #TeamRiverRunner