A new campaign offers support to veterans in Iowa who might be considering ending their own lives. It’s called “The Power of One” and it emphasizes the effect just one person, one conversation or one act can have on the life of a veteran or service member. The VA’s Caitlin Thompson encourages friends and family of Iowa veterans to know the warning signs.
“Sleeping more or less than usual, getting angry more quickly than usual, getting more withdrawn from family members or friends, or drinking more or using drugs,” Thompson says. “Really, the hallmark sign is if somebody is expressing feelings of hopelessness or saying things like people would be better off without me.”
The Iowa Department of Public Health shows 445 Iowans died by suicide in 2013, though there are no specific numbers for Iowa veterans’ suicides. Thompson says professionals are on staff at all VA medical centers in Iowa to handle this type of situation. “We also have suicide prevention coordinators at every VA around the country,” she says. “They do outreach events every month and they are the local experts in suicide prevention with veterans.”
Thompson says Vietnam-era veterans are at particular risk for suicide. Of those service members who take their own lives, 70-percent are over 50 years old. The VA is also seeing rising suicide numbers in veterans between the ages of 20 and 29. Many of those in the military who have taken their own lives haven’t even been deployed. “What we need to be aware of especially with veterans is when people are going through major transitions,” Thompson says. “We know veterans go through a lot of transitions. Major life events can be high risk periods for suicide, such as divorce or relationship issues, job loss, financial problems or legal problems.”
Veterans, current military members and their families can get help by calling the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 or by sending a text to 838255. Online chat is also available at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat. Anyone else in the state can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.