High rates of veteran suicides across the country, and especially in Alabama, were seen before the COVID-19 pandemic, and have only gotten worse since the public health crisis, but there’s work underway to bring awareness and aid.
The Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System’s Be There campaign aims to remind veterans and their loved ones that small actions can make a big difference. September is Suicide Prevention Month.
“We understand that these unprecedented times can cause additional stress and hardship. And that is just one of the reasons why CAVHCS is committed to being there for Veterans in need,” said Amir Farooqi, CAVHCS interim director, in a statement. “We need everyone to get involved. This September, and all year, I encourage everyone to be there for Veterans and others in need. Suicide is a complex national public health issue that affects us all.”
According to a report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Alabama in 2016, the last year for which data is available, veterans died by suicide at a rate of 34.2 percent per 100,000 people. That’s compared to the national average of veteran suicides of 30.1 percent.
Alabama had the 15th highest rate of veteran suicides in the nation in 2016, according to the report. Nationally, an average of 20 veterans kill themselves every day in the U.S.
A report released in June by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute projects that a five percent increase in the unemployment rate results in an additional 550 veteran suicides annually. That same five percent increase in unemployment is also projected to add 20,000 additional cases of veterans abusing substances to cope, the report states.
CAVHCS’s Be There campaign suggests several actions that can help make a difference for a Veteran to include:
- Learning about the warning signs of suicide, found on the Veterans Crisis Line website.
- Watching the free S.A.V.E. training video to learn how to respond with care and compassion if someone indicates they are having thoughts of suicide.
- Contacting VA’s Coaching Into Care program where a licensed psychologist or social worker will provide loved ones with guidance for motivating Veterans to seek support.
- Sharing stories of hope and recovery from VA’s Make the Connection.
- Reaching out to the Veterans in your life to show them you care by sending a check-in text, cook them dinner or simply asking, “How are you?”
For more information and resources visit BeThereForVeterans.com.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.