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Suicide Prevention Month offers Montanans new opportunities to "Be There" for others who are struggling

Helena - September is National Suicide Prevention Month and marks an opportunity for all Montanans to have a role in preventing suicide in our communities. Each year, more than 45,000 Americans-including more than 6,000 Veterans-die by suicide. In the challenging times of the coronavirus pandemic, now is an ideal time to learn how to "be there" to support ourselves and others.

"Suicide is such an important issue to speak about that no person should hesitate to simply begin a conversation," said Montana VA Health Care System's Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Doug Stepina, LCSW. "One small effort to connect can make all the difference."

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,

Talking about death, dying or suicide.

"Everyone is able today-right now-to support people who are struggling," said MTVAHCS's newest Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Traci Huynh, MA, NCC, LPC. "The simple act of starting a conversation can be the support Veterans or others need to connect beyond the pain they are feeling. For someone in crisis who may be having thoughts of suicide, these conversations make the difference between a tragic outcome and a life saved."

For Montanans who are looking for ways to support themselves or others, here are some suggestions:

Make a connection: Reach out and ask for help. Reach out to family and friends or a mental health professional and let them know you need their support. If you think someone is struggling, connect with them! Ask them how they are doing and let them know you are here for them. It is more important to start a conversation instead of waiting to know exactly what to say.

Self-care: 2020 has been a year of unexpected challenges. Now, it is more important than ever to prioritize making time to nourish your mind and body each day. Make a list of what builds you up and do at least one activity a day. Talk with your loved ones to come up with a plan if you begin to think of self-harm.

*Add the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to your cell phone and call whenever you or someone you know may be in crisis. This number provides confidential support for individuals and their loved ones in times of crisis. Veterans can press 1 after dialing or text 838255 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line. This support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.

Veterans and their loved ones can find Veteran-specific suicide prevention information such as how to find nearby support, recognize warning signs, and information to connect with support via call, chat, or text at the Veterans Crisis Line webpage.

The MTVAHCS serves over 47,000 enrolled Veterans across Montana-an area roughly 147,000 square miles in size. Veterans are cared for by a staff of 1,400 at 17 sites of care across the state.  One third of Montana VA employees are Veterans.

For more information, visit the MTVAHCS website and contact Public Affairs Officer Katie Beall at [email protected] or 447-7303.


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