Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans

November 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Some families are remembering veterans who lost their lives to suicide. Suicides account for more deaths among veterans than war related fatalities. But the statistics may soon improve with more veterans seeking help.59-year-old William Gilligan served in the army in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971. For years he tried to drown his memories of war with drugs and alcohol.

Gilligan said, "I always tried to take care of myself and people around me ... and then when you realize you can't even take care of yourself."

Last January a flesh eating bacteria in his foot resulted in the amputation of his leg. Two months later Gilligan tried to take his life.

Leann Gouveia, Executive Director of Fresno Survivors of Suicide said, "It's not that a suicidal person wants to die ... they want to end the pain that they are in. Suicide is about ending pain."

Gouveia says last year Fresno County lost ten veterans to suicide ... ten out of the 70 people who took their own lives. The numbers only reflect those completed suicides. Many more end up in emergency rooms. In fact, two to three times more women attempt suicide than men.

Leann Gouveia said, "I've had some professionals that I know who have said that while we lost 32-thousand individuals to suicide last year ... that are documented ... they estimate that it could be even 50% higher."

The number of agencies and hotlines is growing to help those contemplating suicide. The Veteran's Administration has hired more staff to deal with mental health issues and more veterans like William Gilligan are reaching out.

Gilligan said, "I asked for help ... It's the first time I asked for help."

Gilligan also has a better support system than six months ago. He and his son are communicating again for the first time in 20 years.

If you or someone you know is despondent ... or showing signs of severe depression ... you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. They will connect you with local agencies that can help. Veterans will be linked automatically with the nearest VA hospital.



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