Thursday, December 27, 2007


We've all read the recent press stories on the number of suicides among veterans escalating -- especially, they tell us, among the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Veterans Health Administration estimates there are about 1,000 suicides per year among veterans receiving care through VHA, and as many as 5,000 suicides per year among all living veterans. There are those that will tell you the numbers are being warped and twisted and others saying that the numbers prove that soldiers have been victimized by the war... and Congresscritters holding hearings to paint the horror and pain of suicide as the fault of the VA or the "Administration" or Bush.Cheney.Haliburton.Hitler.Whatever.

It matters little whether the numbers are right or wrong or twisted or spun, because we all know someone... or all have heard of someone... a veteran... with problems that may or may not have anything to do with their war experiences... young men and old men with depression... a relationship that has failed... debt and other financial problems... unemployment... isolation... health problems... a combination of all of these... perhaps you witness the warning signs... or you've seen excessive drinking and other forms of self-medicating trying to ease the distress but which solved nothing... there are those veterans who live on the edge of the abyss of a permanent solution to a temporary situation -- no longer able to see the larger picture.

We have come a long way in being able to discuss the dark side of our minds: stress (post-traumatic or otherwise), biploar disorders, insomnia, depression, anxiety... the list is lengthy. And while suicide is a topic that has only been whispered about in hushed and shameful tones, the biggest myth has always been that we should not talk about it... a taboo... forbidden.

The VA -- recognizing that Veterans are a special risk group and seeking to reverse the trend of rising rates -- earlier this year launched enhanced suicide prevention measures as part of a joint venture between the VA and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention hotline and it now has an immediate prompt that says, "if you are a U.S. military veteran, please press 1 now." The call is then routed to New York where a staff of specially trained counselors are available to immediately help veterans through the crisis... who have special knowledge of what a veteran goes through. 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

And it's not just talking to the veteran until he or she no longer feels suicidal that day: the veteran is immediately entered into the VA Medical system (if they weren't there already) and cross references their location to find them the closest facility to get them immediate help.

At the VA medical center nearest our home, the Suicide Prevention Coordinator relates a story of receiving a call from a young Veteran in a neighboring state who returned from Iraq and was beset by a series of personal problems and losses. Through the new information system, they arranged for the young man to receive emergency care through his local community hospital and later was transferred to the VA Hospital in Phoenix. When the Coordinator visited the veteran, he told her that he honestly had every intention of killing himself that night; she knew that he'd be dead if not for the intervention and care he received with one phone call.

It is estimated that this program has already saved nearly 100 Veterans. It would be worthwhile if it saved only ONE.

More people die every year by suicide than HIV or murder. People need to take notice. It's the only way we can make this change. So let us now talk openly and candidly about suicide... and its prevention.

Let's spread the word. I have added this button to my side bar... and I ask bloggers to add a button or banner to their blogs. I have added the "Veterans Press 1" tag near the button.

Veterans Press "1"

Spread the word!
HERE are buttons & banners and the codes for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline also is on
MySpace and at

Help Save a Life. Help Save a Veteran's Life.
Maybe more than one.


At 12/31/2007 10:56 AM , Anonymous National Suicide Prevention Lifeline said...

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline wants to reinforce your message and thank you for getting the word out to veterans that help is a phone call away at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at no cost 24/7. Mothers and family members of veterans play an important role in helping veterans get help. Please encourage other military families to suggest their loved ones call Lifeline if they need help. With help comes hope. Learn more about Lifeline at Carla, thanks again for your helpful post.

At 1/05/2008 4:19 PM , Blogger Tacobell said...

THIS is GREAT GOUGE!!! I will have to link your article to my blog.
Have a wonderful New Years.
Semper Fi,

At 1/08/2008 6:09 PM , Blogger Army Sergeant said...

Thanks, that is SO important. I can only hope they have it staffed enough for the amount of veterans that might call. Is it for active duty military as well, do you know, though? I've known many soldiers who were suicidal and we found out the hard way.

At 1/08/2008 8:54 PM , Blogger Some Soldier's Mom said...

Dear Sgt: ANYONE can call the suicide lifeline any time if they need help. it is staffed 24/7. I don't know if they have a program for active military direct, but they can counsel in crisis and help save a life... it can save a life -- one life... It certainly can't hurt to post it, mention it... and because it can't get back to their command without their permission, soldiers in crisis might be more willing to deal with the Lifeline anonymously. Whatever works.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home