September is National Suicide Prevention Month. With the month coming to an end, we should remind ourselves that suicide prevention doesn’t end with the observation. It is an ongoing effort that should be practiced every day of the year.
As under secretary for Memorial Affairs it is my sacred mission to ensure no Veteran ever dies. It is said that we each die two deaths. The first when breath leaves us for the very last time and the second, the last time someone speaks our name or tells our story. It’s the second that I am committed to ensuring never happens to our Veterans, but I am even more committed to preventing suicide among our Veterans.
We all know someone who has lost their battle to suicide, or families who have suffered from this great pain. The topic is an emotional one for many, but we must turn this emotion into discussion. It is on all of us to carry the load for those we have lost and use their memory as motivation to help others at risk and suffering.
My firsthand experience is what drives me to want to do something about suicide. I know that I am not alone in this thought and we are stronger together. There is not a subject that makes me feel more helpless, but together we can make a real difference.
Suicide prevention is the top clinical priority for VA and raising awareness of the resources and information available to Veterans is a key component to preventing suicide. Through the Be There campaign, VA highlights the risk factors and warning signs for suicide, provides information about VA mental health and suicide prevention resources, and helps individuals and organizations start the conversation around Veteran mental health in their communities.
We are never too busy to make a difference. Helping save a life is worth well more than the time spent doing anything else. Together, we must support and be there for our Veterans and their families. It’s the very least we can do in return for all the sacrifices they have made for our country.
I urge you all to join your local community and VA facilities to learn the warning signs of suicide and tips on how you can help. Simply being there can make all the difference.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves leads VA’s national cemeteries in providing dignified burial services for Veterans and eligible family members.