VAMC Manchester, New Hampshire
Suicide Prevention, Hope and Recovery
Suicide is a national public health issue that affects people of all backgrounds, not just those who have served in the military. And we know it’s preventable.
Ongoing suicide prevention education provides increased awareness, and the chance to start important conversations about suicide and recovery in the U.S.
For 153 veteran survivors of near-fatal suicide attempts, 47 percent reported that it took less than 1 hour between their decision to attempt suicide and taking action to do so; 24 percent said it took them less than 5 minutes to act.
Everyone has experienced setbacks, and has had to overcome obstacles. The road to recovery is no different. Ensuring that veterans survive setbacks so they can continue their recovery process is a crucial part of suicide prevention.
VA taking action
This year, the Manchester VA has enhanced its Suicide Prevention Program with an additional suicide prevention coordinator to not only prevent suicide, but to educate and provide helpful resources to the community.
The suicide prevention team has more than doubled the VA’s presence in the community at events, so the VA is taking things a step further by engaging local leaders, such as Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, who collaborated with the Manchester VA to kick off the Mayor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans and their Families.
The number-one clinical goal at the Manchester VA is to prevent suicide among all veterans — even those who do not and may never seek care within the VA system.
The VA, as part of its mission, also emphasizes the importance of serving all underserved populations.
The Manchester VA Medical Center has plans to launch a Patient Aligned Care Team for Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Veterans. The hope is that the availability of this type of specialized treatment will help alleviate some of the additional risks for suicide that our transgender veterans experience.
Limiting the dangers
Limiting access to lethal means, such as firearms, saves lives, because most individuals who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide later. While even serious thoughts of suicide are usually brief and temporary, it is important to limit access to lethal means during these high-risk times. For a veteran in crisis, limiting access to firearms during a critical period can make the difference between life and death. It is difficult to talk with someone about access to guns, but it is important to try. During a high-risk period for a veteran, temporary storage of firearms away from the home may be the safest option.
In addition to off-site storage, options may include the use of gun locks or gun safes within the home. Guns should be stored unloaded, with ammunition stored out of the home or at least separately from the gun. Guns may also be stored disassembled.
Options and regulations for firearm transfer vary by state; for more info, visit or talk to your local police department.
Gun locks are available through the Manchester VA’s suicide prevention coordinators; call 800-892-8384, ext. 2150, for information.
The Manchester VA is looking beyond its traditional health care settings to reach veterans where they live. The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255; veterans will need to press 1. This resource is for everyone.
In response to an increase in calls to the Veterans Crisis Line, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs opened a third call center, in Topeka, Kan. Additionally, veterans and the public in general can now ask Siri for help by saying, “Siri, call the Veterans Crisis Line.”
The VA’s Coaching into Care phone program offers resources to educate and empower families and friends who are seeking care and/or services for a veteran. For more information on Coaching into Care, call 1-888-823-7458.
This feature first ran in Ask the VA, a monthly VA column in the Union Leader. If you have a topic of interest you would like to address ask us - Manchester VA Public Affairs