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Suicide Prevention Month: Reaching out for help - critical

By Joycelyn Biggs | | September 4, 2014

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Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide, according to the 2012 suicide data report from the Veterans Administration. A 2012 Department of Defense annual suicide event report stated the Marine Corps accounts for 42 suicides, in addition to six probable and 169 suicide attempts.

Although there is no single answer to prevent these occurrences, reaching out for help is critical, Caitlin Thompson, deputy director for suicide prevention, Veterans Administration, revealed.

Removing stigmas that some service members and families have relating to getting that help is crucial, Jacqueline Garrick, acting director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, added. 

According to a VA fact sheet, veterans who reach out for help are less likely to commit suicide than those who do not.

To ensure help is available, the VA has expanded access to mental health care services, increased capacity at the veterans/military crisis line, increased the number of mental health care providers and improved access to mental health services in pilot communities and hired providers in rural areas.

For the 5,800 veterans in the local area, the Albany VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic is available for those who may be in crisis or need to speak with someone.

The clinic relocated to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, recently, and now includes mental health services.

Dr. Matthew Geyer, director of mental health services, Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, Dublin, Georgia, explained contemplating suicide is not as uncommon as some may think.

“We speak with people having suicidal ideations on a regular basis,” he said.

Geyer confirmed veterans who receive care are more successful in overcoming the crisis.

If a person is not comfortable with going into an office, Geyer offered additional options. Veterans can reach out to the veteran’s crisis line through the website, veteranscrisisline.net, which has a confidential chat line, by phone at 800-273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255.

For active-duty persons seeking help, Christine Morrison, registered nurse, certified case manager, Naval Branch Health Clinic, is available either in person or by phone at 229-639-8663.

Reaching out for help is not limited to the person in crisis. Research from the VA indicates friends, family or fellow service members are sometimes the link to preventing a veteran from committing suicide. 

To assist those encountering a veteran having a suicidal crisis, Operation SAVE, an initiative created by the VA, provided the following helpful tips to keep in mind.

Remain calm, listen more than you speak, maintain eye contact, act with confidence, do not argue, use open body language, limit questions, let the veteran do the talking, use supportive encouraging comments and be honest.

Health care professionals stress persons in crisis reach out for help. They advise friends, family and co-workers ask questions and offer assistance to those in distress. These simple acts may prevent a suicide and save a life.
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