Current statistics show that 30,000 to 32,000 Americans die each year from suicide; about 20% of these are veterans. In most instances, those who commit suicide are struggling with mental illness, so it only makes sense that our suicide prevention programs include high quality mental health care services.
Along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), other factors can play a part, such as clinical depression, alcohol or drug addiction, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Veterans need to be asked directly if they are thinking about committing suicide, and service providers need to pay special attention even if the veteran denies having a plan. The reality is, a veteran may not admit to considering suicide as an option due to the stigma associated with mental illness or fear of being forced into treatment.
If you are a veteran contemplating suicide, help is available. The VA has established a suicide prevention hotline where veterans, or those concerned about a veteran, can call for help. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1-800-273-8255 and then press 1 to be connected to a VA mental health professional.
In addition, each VA Med Center has a suicide prevention coordinator, whose job it is to ensure vets identified as being at high risk for suicide receive appropriate care. This may include follow up for missed appointments, safety planning, weekly follow-up visits and getting the veteran connected to appropriate services and resources.