Veterans Affairs: Veterans don’t need to suffer silently or alone

Resources are available — often at no cost.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A patch created to bring awareness to the epidemic of veteran suicide, is one of many created by members of the Utah Villains, a local chapter of bearded gentlemen dedicated to charitable causes including Suicide Prevention Awareness, pictured on Monday, March 27, 2023.

Editor’s note • This article discusses suicide. If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for 24-hour support.

Suicide prevention among veterans remains a public health priority, but the facts are clear: Suicide is preventable. Veterans need not suffer silently or alone. There is help available 24/7 for veterans in crisis, as well as for family members who seek confidential support for their loved ones.

September bears the sobering-yet-necessary title of Suicide Prevention Month to raise awareness for veteran suicide. Veterans are taking their lives each day, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to eliminating that statistic. VA encourages veterans and concerned loved ones to connect with needed resources to help prevent a suicidal event.

Earlier this year, in a move to save more veterans’ lives, VA instituted the Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act. Under this initiative, eligible Veterans experiencing an acute suicidal crisis can immediately present to any VA or non-VA health care facility for emergency health care at no cost.

VA behavioral health providers and suicide prevention care are available for ongoing support, counseling and other mental health services. Veterans in Utah can reach out to Tiffany Jo Merrill, PhD, at tiffany.merrill@va.gov or at 801-582-1565 x2786.

National crisis resources are also available 24/7. The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource that connects any veteran or their loved ones to a live person specially trained to support veterans. It can be reached by calling 988, and selecting 1; texting 838255; and by chatting online. Those with a hearing impairment may also call 800-799-4889.

Veterans in crisis may also call 911; go to the nearest emergency room or go directly to your nearest VA medical center. You need not be enrolled in VA health care to get help. Visit VA.gov to find your nearest VA medical center.

As a community, we must work together to offer our support. To those looking to help our veteran community, here’s where you can start:

Reach out to a veteran

Call or text to check on a friend or loved one. Simply asking, “How’s everything going? I’m here for you if you want to talk or need help finding support.” can make all the difference.

Hear veteran stories

Everyone needs help sometimes. More than 600 Veterans and family members have shared powerful stories of finding support and overcoming challenges. View their videos at MakeTheConnection.net.

Educate yourself

Learn how to spot warning signs of an emotional or mental health crisis, support a veteran at risk for suicide and identify mental health and suicide prevention resources. Visit Reach.gov/SPM to find support near you.

Spread the word

You can make a difference. Simply forward this to a colleague to help raise awareness.

Life certainly has its challenges, but it can be better if we work together and support each other.

Sunaina Kumar-Giebel

Sunaina Kumar-Giebel is the director for the VA Rocky Mountain Network (Veterans Integrated Service Network 19).

Angela D. Williams

Angela D. Williams is the medical center director for the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System.