Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center & Clinics (SORCC)
#Be There: For Our Nation’s Veterans Suicide Prevention
Suicide prevention is the top clinical priority for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and VA has adopted a public health approach to suicide prevention.
The goal of VA’s suicide prevention efforts is to ensure that wherever Veterans receive their care, through VA or in the community, that it be from a well-trained provider and within a community that respects and supports their strengths, skills, and experiences as a Veteran. This means using prevention approaches that cut across all sectors in which Veterans may interact, and collaborating with Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs), state and local leaders, medical professionals, criminal justice officials, private employers, and many other stakeholders.
Year-round, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) empowers communities to act to support our nation’s Veterans. Each community across the country plays a role in supporting Veterans, but as an individual you may not know what to do or where to start.
You don’t need to have special training to support the Veterans in your life, and we can all do something to help a Veteran who is going through a challenging time. Even seemingly small actions can have an enormous impact: Preventing suicide begins with just the willingness to #Be There.
Who is considered a Veteran?
The federal definition of a Veteran is any person who severed honorably on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States. In 2015 Veterans made up approximately 8%of the US population and 14% of all deaths by suicide that year were Veterans. Suicide is a public health issue that affects people across the county, Veteran or civilian, but its effects are felt significantly in the Veteran population. The VA has embarked on a comprehensive public health approach to reducing Veteran suicide rates.
Why are suicide rates higher for Veterans?
Most suicide risk factors and protective factors are the same for Veterans and civilians but there are some experiences and characteristics that are related to military service.
Some of the shared risk factors between Veterans and civilians include physical and mental illness, substance use, chronic pain, life transitions, and bereavement. Shared protective factors include social connectedness, positive coping skills, access to mental health care, and having a sense of purpose.
Veteran-specific risk factors include transition-related challenges, posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and experience with firearms. Veterans’ protective factors include resilience and having a sense of belonging.
According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data suicide rates are climbing for the entire U.S. population – Veterans who do not use VHA health care have higher suicide rates than Veterans who seek care.
What should I do if a Veteran I know is in trouble?
VA uses the S.A.V.E. model to act with care and compassion when you encounter a Veteran experiencing a mental health crisis – the acronym helps remembering the important steps involved in suicide prevention:
S – Signs of suicidal thinking should be recognized.
A – Ask the most important question of all. “Are you thinking about killing yourself.”
V – Validate the Veteran’s experience.
E – Encourage treatment, and Expedite getting help.
If you have identified warning signs or symptoms of a Veteran being in mental health crisis or suicidal asking them if they are having suicidal thoughts is a very important protective step. It allows the Veteran to talk openly about suicide. As a person responding to someone in crisis, recognize the situation is serious and you may need to call for additional help. Do your best not to pass judgement and reassure the Veteran that help is available.
What should I do if I think a Veteran is suicidal?
- Do not keep the Veteran’s suicidal behavior a secret
- Do not leave him or her alone
- Try and get the Veteran to seek immediate help from his or her doctor, mental health provider or the nearest hospital emergency room
- Call 911
- Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1
For more information, training and/or volunteer opportunities please contact your nearest VA or Vet Center by using www.va.gov/directory.
VA – Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics & the Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Grants Pass and Klamath Falls offer mental health services. For more information on the services provided www.southernoregon.va.gov. or call 541-830-7585
VA Suicide Prevention Coordinator Find your local SPC at VeteransCrisisLine.net/ResourceLocator.
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