News Article Details

VA offers services to help prevent suicide

Commercial-News - 10/9/2018

Oct. 09--DANVILLE -- Suicide prevention is the No. 1 mental health priority for the Department of Veterans Affairs, including the Illiana Health Care System.

In 2007, the Suicide Prevention Program was started, and the number of suicide prevention services has increased since then, officials say.

"When it comes to mental health services, the VA is second to none," said Nicole Gorman, suicide prevention coordinator at Illiana.

Across the country, VA staff is mandated to make at least five outreach efforts a month to increase awareness of suicide prevention. However, Illiana is first in the nation, with staff making about 45 outreach efforts a month.

That includes traveling to 30 counties in Illiana's service area, and speaking at veteran town halls, neighborhood groups and fairs, as well as the recent mental health summit.

There were more than 6,000 veteran suicides a year from 2008 to 2016, according to the VA's National Suicide Data Report.

In the Illiana System, two enrolled veterans committed suicide in Fiscal Year 2018, Gorman said, adding, "that we're aware of."

Gorman said the suicide rate is highest among young male veterans, 18-34, and is lowest among male veterans ages 55 -- 74. However, older veterans represented the greatest share of suicide deaths in 2016, accounting for 58.1 percent of suicide deaths, due to the larger population.

Gorman also noted that the use of a firearm to commit suicide is common. In 2016, 69.4 percent of veteran suicides resulted from a firearm injury. That figure is up from 2015, when 67 percent of veterans used a gun.

As a result, the VA is focused on preventing self-harm by firearm.

Free gun locks are available at several places at the Danville VA, including: at the entrances of Building 58 and 98, and in the primary care waiting rooms.

Lethal means safety training is provided to 14 departments outside of mental health, Gorman said.

The staff isn't trying to take guns away, but to make sure they're safely stored and have gun locks. When a gun is locked, that gives a veteran time to stop and think twice about what he or she is doing.

Another VA mandate is that mental health services must be offered to eligible veterans within one year of discharge. It's then up to the veteran whether to pursue the services.

Veterans may call the national crisis line, as well. It's no longer called the suicide line because a veteran might have a different crisis in his life. For example, a veteran might be despondent over financial woes, legal action, relationship problems or a job loss. Or he might have trouble adjusting to civilian life after years in the military.

Veterans who call the crisis line aren't necessarily talking about suicide. Sometimes, they just don't know where else to turn.

KNOW THE SIGNS

Many veterans may not show any signs of intent to harm themselves before doing so, but some actions can be a sign that a person needs help, according to the Veterans Crisis Line website. Here are some of the warning signs:

--Appearing sad or depressed most of the time

--Hopelessness; feeling like there's no way out

--Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings

--Feeling as if there is no reason to live

--Feeling excessive guilt, shame, or sense of failure

--Rage or anger

--Engaging in risky activities without thinking

--Losing interest in hobbies, work, or school

--Increasing alcohol or drug misuse

--Neglecting personal welfare; a deteriorating physical appearance

--Withdrawing from family and friends

--Showing violent behavior, like punching a hole in the wall or getting into fights

--Giving away prized possessions

--Getting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, or writing a will.

FOR HELP

--To see if you're eligible for VA services for veterans, call (217) 554-3000.

--The Veterans Crisis Line is (800) 273-8255; press 1. It serves veterans, their family members and friends.

You also may have a confidential chat at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net or text to 838255.

--A local program, Working Out PTSD, pays for gym memberships for qualified veterans, and also has expanded to raise money to help veterans in other ways, such as buying service dogs. The program pays for veterans to join one of the participating gyms, which helps relieve stress. Learn more on its Facebook page.

--The site https://www.mirecc.va.gov/visn19/ supports providers, veterans, families and communities, and offers virtual and real-world tools.

--Another helpful site is www.treatmentworksforvets.org

___

(c)2018 the Commercial-News (Danville, Ill.)

Visit the Commercial-News (Danville, Ill.) at www.commercial-news.com

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