Suicide prevention forum addresses high death rates among military veterans

by Paul Garilao, ABS-CBN News

NASHVILLE, TN — September is national suicide prevention and awareness month.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs held the suicide prevention conference 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee to address the increase in deaths of service members and veterans due to suicide.

The conference brought together subject matter experts, advocates, and other federal and non-federal executives to share their latest training materials and policy updates for advancing suicide prevention efforts nationwide.

In a report released by the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, a total of 325 active duty members died due to suicide in 2018: 68 sailors, 60 airmen, 58 Marines, and 139 soldiers — an increase of 40 deaths compared to the previous year.

Recently, three sailors from U.S.S. George Bush in Virginia committed suicide in separate incidents.

Meanwhile, government data also showed that an average of twenty military veterans a day commit suicide. Most of them have no contact with the department of veterans affairs, the government agency that is responsible for the welfare of ex-military personnel.

This Pinay Navy veteran admitted that she thought about committing suicide — but changed her mind because of the support system around her.

“It was really nice to have not only friends around me in the barracks, but it was also nice to have leadership behind my back that… You know they didn’t penalize me for needing help. Rather, they needed me to get help because they needed me to be part of the military family,”  said Aia Philipps.

She said there are multiple channels available to those who are suffering from depression and mental illness and those who need immediate attention and help.

“To be open and transparent and relatable. To ask them what do they need like do you need to go to mental health. You obviously need to sneak that into the conversation because part of suicide prevention is always open about it.”

Immediate help is available 24/7 at no cost for those who want to talk to a trained counselor.

Military service members may call 1-800-273-8255 and veterans may contact the crisis hotline at 1-800-272-8255.

While the causes of suicide are very complex, this conference reminds us that battling suicide is a team effort not just by the government but also by the families of affected parties.

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