Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Suicide Prevention

This morning, several members of our staff attended Suicide Prevention Training with Yvette Branson, a Suicide Prevention Coordinator with the Department of Veterans Affairs, New York Harbor Healthcare System.  The training was both helpful and eye opening.  Some of the statistics that she shared:
  • 91 suicides occur each day; 18 are veterans
  • Suicide is the second leading cause among 25-34 year olds
  • Suicide is the third leading cause among 15-24 year olds
What is more disturbing are some of the statistics connected with Vietnam veterans. Although reports vary, all agree that the numbers are high. According to Win Over PTSD, since 1975, three times as many Vietnam veterans have committed suicide than were killed in the war.  This tells us that long after this war is over, we will need programs and services in place to support our veterans.

Men and women approach suicide differently and although men are more likely to commit suicide, more women attempt suicide.  However, among veterans, the numbers change a bit.
  • Female veterans are 3x more likely than civilians to complete their suicide attempts.
  • Male veterans are 2x more likely than civilians to complete their suicide attempts.
One number that everyone should keep is the Veterans Crisis Line number (800.273.8255, press 1).  The crisis line can be used by the veteran, even if the veteran is unsure of what they are experiencing.  It can also be used by their family members who need help--either for the veteran or for themselves.
The Veteran Crisis Website offers a number of important services including online confidential chat line, self-check quiz and other resources.  There is also an important list of warning signs. If you are part of an organization that works with veterans, materials can be downloaded from the site with the logo above.
The VA is working very hard to help our veterans.  My final statistic:  although 18 veterans commit suicide each day, among veterans affiliated with a VA, the number drops to 5 suicides/day.  We would all like to see those numbers lower, but the VA is moving in the right direction.

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