Sheridan VA Wants To Bring Awareness To Veteran Suicide Prevention Efforts

Sep 16, 2019

Credit Catherine Wheeler

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and the Sheridan VA Health Care System is encouraging everyone to support veteran suicide prevention efforts.

The Sheridan facility primarily focuses on mental health care for veterans. A VA campaign called #BeThere wants to educate those around veterans on supporting them and how to look for warning signs.

Kayla Stevens, suicide prevention case manager for the Sheridan VA, said the campaign wants people to know that you don't have to be a mental health professional to prevent suicide.

"When it comes to suicide prevention, it's all about support and human connection. If you're worried about somebody, ask them. It can be an uncomfortable question to ask, but it can be a lifesaving one," she said.

Stevens said locally, they have been working with a variety of community organizations to raise awareness about suicide prevention, and that at most veteran-centric events, the VA has a booth promoting education about suicide prevention.

"We just did a booth at Sheridan College, just raising awareness and answering questions. Maybe it's not the veteran we're talking to, but it's their child, it's their spouse, it's their neighbor. You know each connection we make is going to help," she said.

Stevens said veterans can meet with providers at the VA, satellite clinics throughout the state or via telehealth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 47,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017. The VA says that from 2008 to 2016, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide each year.

Stevens said suicide isn't just an issue for veterans but for everyone, and education awareness is a big piece of prevention.

For anyone in crisis, you can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Service members or veterans in crisis can press "1" and be directed to trained personnel to speak with.