Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
The newest data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) shows that 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Overall, the VA finds that the risk of suicide is 21 percent higher among veterans when compared with U.S. civilian adults.
The thought of any one veteran, who has given themselves in service to our country, let alone a staggering 20 veterans per day, feeling lost to the point of ending it all means that we, as a nation, must do better to ensure that veterans receive needed support. I can only imagine the depth of frustration and despair that veterans' families and communities feel for these loses. This is a truly heartbreaking epidemic.
The local magnitude of this issue was brought to glaring focus when I heard from a passionate member of the American Legion at a town meeting I hosted this summer in Lewiston. Doc Kinney, a chaplain, came to tell me he had lost two veterans to suicide-that they had given up because they could not get the help they needed. I have since learned that Mr. Kinney has lost another veteran in a similar circumstance. Additionally, veterans at an event this summer in the Magic Valley told me about a young veteran lost to suicide in the area.
We must work together, to spread awareness and increase access to help. We must ask anyone expressing thoughts of ending their lives to seek help from health care professionals, Idaho's suicide hotline and from our community.
In recognition of September as Suicide Prevention Month, the VA is calling on the entire nation to " BeThere" for veterans and service members to help in reducing suicide among veterans. When announcing the effort, Dr. Caitlin Thompson, Director of the VA Office of Suicide Prevention said, "You don't have to be a trained professional to support someone who may be going through a difficult time. We want to let people know that things they do every day, like calling an old friend or checking in with a neighbor, are strong preventive factors for suicide because they help people feel less alone."
Resources and help, including local assistance, can be accessed at www.veteranscrisisline.net/BeThere.aspx. The VA's Veterans Crisis Line can also be accessed by calling 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1; chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chator text to 838255. The VA urges those in need to call, even if a veteran is not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA health care. The site also contains information about the signs to look for and ways to support those struggling.
There is no prouder or accomplished community than those who served in uniform and put their lives on the line for the nation. In turn, our nation must make sure that service is meaningfully recognized and supported. We simply cannot standby and lose more great Americans to suicide. Progress can be made in connecting individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts with the help they need.
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