September is National Suicide Prevention Month and the Montana VA Health Care System (MTVAHCS) is encouraging everyone to have a role in preventing suicide in their community.
Each year more than 45,000 Americans, including more than 6,000 Veterans, die by suicide.
COVID has added additional stresses, and the Montana VA reported around 600 Montana veterans or active duty personnel reached out for help last month alone.
VA staff want people to know that help is available and hope more veterans will reach out before they’re in crisis.
“When someone is experiencing symptoms such as despair and hopelessness, they should know they are very normal human feelings. Bute e are also meant to feel those higher level human emotions like happiness, compassion and love,” said Traci Huynh,MTVAHCS Suicide Prevention coordinator. “I know that when they’re going through those situations it can feel very disheartening but there is hope and there's people that want to help.”
The Veterans Crisis Line offers support to veterans and their loved ones. They have veteran-specific suicide prevention information such as how to find nearby support, recognize warning signs, and information to connect with support via call (1-800-273-8255) , chat, or text.
A lot of veterans, and Montanans, may feel like working through it on their own is the only option, but they don’t have to be alone.
“The natural human response is to try to work through those problems independently by isolating yourself and not letting anyone know what’s going on,” Huynh said. “But unfortunately when you do that you feel even more hopeless, lonely and isolated. You also might not get the education or resources you deserve if you just reach out and ask some simple questions.”
Some signs that someone may be struggling and thinking of harming themselves include:
- Hopelessness, feeling like there is no way out
- Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
- Feeling like there is no reason to live
- Showing violent behavior, like punching a hole in the wall or getting into fights
- Engaging in risky activities without thinking
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Giving prized possessions away
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Talking about death, dying, or suicide
Huynh says it can be awkward to ask someone if they have been thinking about suicide, but that small bit of awkwardness can save lives.
The Montana Suicide Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or you can text “MT” to 741 741. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
More information about resources available for suicide prevention and survivor of suicide loss can be found here.