VA Working to Reduce Veteran Suicides
It’s great to know the Department of Veterans Affairs is adding staff and launching aggressive initiatives to reduce suicides among veterans.
According to a press release, the VA this month released a comprehensive report on veterans who die by suicide. Data on veterans who died by suicide was only available for those who had sought VA health care services. The new report also includes state data for veterans who had not received health care services from VA, which will help VA strengthen its aggressive suicide prevention activities. The report indicates that the percentage of veterans who die by suicide has decreased slightly since 1999, while the estimated total number of veterans who have died by suicide has increased.
“The mental health and well-being of our courageous men and women who have served the nation is the highest priority for VA, and even one suicide is one too many,” said Secretary Eric K. Shinseki in the press release. “We have more work to do and we will use this data to continue to strengthen our suicide prevention efforts and ensure all veterans receive the care they have earned and deserve.”
In accordance with the President’s Aug. 31, 2012, Executive Order, VA has completed hiring and training of additional staff to increase the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line by 50 percent. The Veteran Crisis Line has made approximately 26,000 rescues of actively suicidal Veterans to date.
Additionally, the VA has initiated a year-long public awareness campaign, “Stand By Them,” to educate families and friends on how to seek help for veterans and service members in crisis. VA has launched a national public service announcement “Side by Side.”
VA is currently engaged in an aggressive hiring campaign to expand access to mental health services with 1,600 new clinical staff, 300 new administrative staff, and is in the process of hiring and training 800 peer-to-peer specialists who will work as members of mental health teams.
Again, I applaud the VA for taking these steps to stem the number of veteran suicides. It’s critical we get this problem under control and give our great veterans a reason to live.
Learn more about the VA suicide prevention initiatives here.
Richard VanHouten is the founder and CEO of Veterans Support Organization.