Veterans and Suicide Prevention
Over 220,000 Kansans identify as veterans with nearly 173,000 of them identifying as having served during wartime. An August 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) report titled Suicide Among Veterans and Other Americans – 2001-2014, provides evidence that in 2014 an average of 20 veterans died by suicide every day, with approximately 6 of them receiving VA services at the time. The following statistics say a lot more about suicide in our veteran population:
- In 2014, about 65% of all veteran suicides were age 50 and older.
- After adjusting for differences in age and gender, risk for suicide in 2014 was 21 percent higher among Veterans when compared with U.S. civilian adults.
Despite the staggering statistics, there are ways that we can prevent suicide in our veterans. This year’s theme, “Connect. Communicate. Care.” provides a framework to help us reach veterans in our community.
Plugging veterans into veteran specific resources allows for connection that they may not be able to establish with civilians. Specific veteran resources include services at their nearest Veterans Administration Hospital or Clinic, a local or regional VA Vet Center, or through the Veteran’s Crisis Line (online, phone, or text).
Communication around mental and behavioral health issues has always been closed off in the veteran population. Service members are often told to keep their mental and behavioral health issues in the dark so they can retain their positions and avoid an untimely discharge. Also, they are told to keep their mental and behavioral health needs shrouded so they don’t interfere with the mission. Creating culture change around communication for veterans may have to come through connection with other veterans who understand what they are going through. Don’t be offended if a veteran doesn’t want to talk to them. Simply continuing to communicate that you care and urging them to seek help from someone who does understand could save someone’s life.
Caring means taking a step further than just connecting and communicating. Care enough to learn how to identify and support those who are at heightened risk for suicide. Care by allowing them to share their story in their own way. Care by working to assure that the resources are available and suicide prevention remains a priority for veterans.
If someone is in immediate danger, call 911. There are multiple, veteran specific resources in Kansas available for veterans and their families to prevent suicide:
Veterans Crisis Line
Text: 838255 to get help now
Call: 800-273-TALK (8255), Press 1
Kansas Vet Centers
For assistance after hours, weekends, and holidays call: 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387)
205 South 4th Street, Suite B
Manhattan, KS 66502
785-350-4920 | 877-927-8387
251 N. Water St.
Wichita, KS 67202
316-265-889 | 888-878-6881, Ext. 41080
Kansas Veterans Administration Hospitals
Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center
5500 East Kellogg Ave
Wichita, KS 67218
316-685-2221 | 888-878-6881
Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center
2200 SW Gage Blvd
Topeka, KS 66622
785-350-3111 | 800-574-8387
Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center
4101 4th Street Trafficway
Leavenworth, KS 66048
913-682-2000 | 800-952-8387
Lindsey Stillwell, LMSW