HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – In a week when three veterans have taken their own lives at facilities run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Hampton VA Medical Center says its top priority is preventing suicides regardless of the surroundings.
Military Times reported two veterans took their lives over the weekend at separate medical centers in Dublin and Atlanta, Ga. Then on Tuesday a veteran shot himself in a clinic waiting room in Austin, Texas.
“It could be a statement that somebody is making about their experience, but usually there is more that is underlying,” said Dr. Priscilla Hankins, Chief of Staff at Hampton VAMC.
Hankins says every staff member, regardless of department, must have suicide prevention training. New hires get the mandatory training within their first 30 days. They’re trained to recognize factors such as mental illness, previous suicide attempts, major health or financial crises, and homelessness.
Hampton’s same-day access clinic can utilize all providers in the hospital, and communicate with other VA sites in Hampton Roads. Dr. Maninder Singh, Chief of Mental Health, says the aim is getting vets at risk for suicide to see someone.
“Right now there’s 14 veterans out of the 20 that commit suicide every day that do not get services at the VA,” said Dr. Singh.
Hampton VAMC’s efforts go beyond the walls. Suicide prevention outreach includes screening veterans’ families to see if the veteran owns a gun, and will offer gun locks if necessary.
“We want to engage the family to put it in storage or remove it temporarily until the person is stable,” Hankins said.
Hampton VAMC is partnering with EVMS and other agencies for an annual mental health summit May 7.
The confidential Veterans Crisis Line is 800-273-8255.