During Suicide Prevention Month, which was last month, VA officials set up informational tables and distributed items with the national crisis line number on them. One day, speakers gave presentations on suicide prevention to veterans; on another day, presentations were given to clinical staff on trauma and why it must be addressed.
Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 640,000 calls and made more than 23,000 life-saving rescues. In 2009, an anonymous online chat service was added, which has helped more than 50,000 people.
The VA responders — many of them veterans themselves — also provide referrals to local VA services and help vets get fast-tracked mental health care.
In the Illiana System — which includes Lafayette, Ind., Decatur, Peoria, Springfield and Mattoon — there were 34 suicide attempts (includes five females) and seven completions (all men) in Fiscal Year 2011, which ended last October.
Five died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds and two died of overdose. Three were veterans from the Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom era; one each from Vietnam era and post-Vietnam; and two were post-Korean War.
With the attempted suicides, 23 tried to overdose and five tried cutting. Other attempts involving hanging, suffocation, poison and death by police. Ten of the 34 attempts were veterans from OEF/OIF era; 11 served in the Gulf War; four were Vietnam era; seven were post-Vietnam and one was post-Korea.
Nationally, 68 percent of veteran suicide deaths involved a firearm, and there is an almost five times higher risk of suicide for persons who live in a household where at least one firearm is kept.
Because of the high number of deaths by gunshot, the local Suicide Prevention Program is starting a campaign later this year on gun safety.
“We’re not trying to take guns away,” Liggett said. “We want to make sure they’re safely stored and have gun locks.”