September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Veterans Count column was written this month by Stephanie Higgs, Easter Seals New Hampshire Military & Veterans Services.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affair’s Office of Suicide Prevention has released its 2016 Suicide Data Report, which provides new information about suicide mortality among U.S. veterans from 2001-14.

This report shows that when compared to their non-veteran peers, most veterans are at an increased risk for suicide – 21 percent higher among veterans. Among male veterans, suicide rates are highest in the younger and older years, and among female veterans, suicide rates are highest in the younger years.

While the average number of veterans who died by suicide each day has remained relatively stable in recent years – an average of 20 per day in 2014 – the relative risk for suicide among veterans when compared to civilian adults has increased. In 2014, veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths by suicide among U.S. adults while constituting 8.5 percent of the U.S. adult population (ages 18 and older).

Learn to recognize signs

Many veterans may not show any signs of intent to harm themselves, but some veterans in crisis show signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and/or hopelessness, such as:

Appearing sad or depressed most of the time.

Feeling anxious, agitated, having trouble with sleeping or sleeping all the time.

Neglecting personal welfare, deteriorating physical appearance.

Withdrawing from friends, family and society.

Losing interest in hobbies, work, school or other things one used to care about.

Frequent and dramatic mood changes.

Feelings of excessive guilt or shame.

Feelings of failure or decreased performance.

Feeling that life isn’t worth living, having no sense of purpose.

Feeling trapped or desperate – like there is no way out of a situation, no solution.

Behavior may be dramatically different from their normal behavior. They may appear to be thinking about or preparing for suicide through behaviors such as:

Performing poorly at work or school.

Recklessly engaging in risky activities.

Showing violent behavior – punching holes in walls, getting into fights, expressing rage or uncontrolled anger.

Appearing to have a "death wish," tempting fate and showing risk-taking behaviors.

Giving away prized possessions.

Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends and/or making out a will.

Seeking access to firearms, pills or other means of harming oneself.

Help is available. You are not alone. If you sense a problem, be direct and consider these options:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline/Veteran Crisis Hotline. If you are a veteran in crisis or know one who is, call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 for immediate phone support and to confidentially speak with a trained, caring VA responder and get connected to services that can make a difference.

Community Mental Health Centers. In every New Hampshire county, there is a community mental health center with a military liaison. The CMHCs have received extensive training in the last year, growing their expertise in working with New Hampshire’s veteran population.

MakeTheConnection.net. This resource connects veterans and their friends and family members with information, resources and solutions to issues affecting their health, well-being and everyday lives.

RealWarriors.net. "Real Warriors, Real Strength." The Real Warriors Campaign is an initiative launched by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury to promote the processes of building resilience, facilitating recovery and supporting reintegration of returning service members, veterans and their families.

NAMI NH is hosting the Military Family Expo for veterans, service members and military families on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Grappone Center in Concord. They will be offering a suicide prevention workshop. Register for the expo at www.nhmilexpo.com, by calling 568-5780 or by emailing ksomarriba@naminh.org.

NAMI NH’s website, naminh.org, provides information and links to hotlines, resources and New Hampshire support groups for survivors of suicide loss (naminh.org).

ESNH MVS provides services to New Hampshire veterans, service members, and their families, including suicide prevention, employment, housing and homelessness, substance abuse treatment, transportation, and treatment for PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Veterans Count, the philanthropic program of ESNH MVS, provides emergency financial assistance to veterans for critical and unmet needs. Veterans Count raises awareness about the challenges that can result from military service and raises money to help address these needs. For more information or to make a donation, visit vetscount.org. If you know a service member, veteran or military family in need, call Chrystn Pitt, Easter Seals NH Military & Veterans Services, at 315-4354.