Jean Lamb: Preventing suicides among veterans, service members

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 7, 2021

Our military is one of the greatest assets this country has. Yet sadly, veterans make up nearly a quarter of suicide deaths in the U.S.

The VA’s 2021 National Annual Veteran Suicide Prevention Report shows a decrease from 2018 to 2019 in the total number of veteran suicide deaths. However, one suicide is one suicide too many. Returning from combat, a deployment or changing from military life to civilian life can be difficult and sometimes procedures which are set up to deal with these issues find it hard to meet the needs of the veteran.

Suicide is preventable. But suicide and suicide prevention can be extremely complicated. There is no one individual cause of suicide among veterans and service members.

Many will never seek help from the system. We need to close this gap. By treating and preventing mental health crisis and substance abuse and also helping veterans and service members to live and thrive in their communities, lives can be saved.

We need to increase our knowledge and understanding of what to do if someone is in crisis. You don’t need to be an expert to recognize when someone you care about is having a hard time. Many veterans don’t show any signs of wanting to hurt themselves. Some of the most common warning signs to look for are: anger or rage; mood swings; trouble sleeping; impulsive behavior; increased alcohol or drug use; self-medicating; anxiety or agitation; withdrawal from family and friends; and struggling to find a purpose in life.

If you recognize any of the symptoms listed above in a veteran or active service member, please recommend that they contact their local Veterans Affairs health care facility. Their trained suicide prevention coordinators, available in each VA medical center, can help get the counseling so desperately needed.

It is also recommended that individuals or military associated organizations set up suicide prevention training; Prevention trained personnel need to get to know each other so they can easily spot someone who is suicidal and therefore make certain that the person receives help.

The Marine Corps League Department of West Virginia encourages families and friends to reach out to veterans in need to provide support. The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

As stated above, one suicide is one suicide too many.

Jean Lamb is the public relations officer for the Marine Corps League Department of West Virginia.