Veterans Affairs, legislators emphasize community after increase in veteran suicides


(WAVY) — Sen. Tim Kaine (D) and Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker (R) introduced bipartisan legislation to designate Sept. 30 as National Veteran Suicide Prevention Day.

In a joint statement, the senators said that overall, military suicides have increased approximately 20 percent compared to this time last year.

At the Hampton VA Medical Center, the Suicide Prevention team stands ready to help those in crisis.

“The number of calls to the veteran’s crisis line have gone up,” Suicide Prevention Coordinator Megan Flaherty said.

Flaherty said the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges.

“Part of what we tell people to do is engage get out into the community, go out to the beaches, go to your favorite coffee shop, really just get out of your house.”

Community is the key because a majority of veterans that die by suicide are not even connected to the VA.

“We want to get our veterans where they live, where they work and meet them where they are,” Dr. Sheronda Farrow said.

Whether that’s at the grocery store or gun shop, Farrow said they are reaching out to all corners of the community and offering SAVE, a suicide prevention training.

“Just having the churches and different organizations be open to us actually coming out and doing that training and teaching them about the warning signs and protective factors is also a way the community can be there,” Suicide Prevention Coordinator Sheconda Griffin said.

Kaine this week introduced legislation intended to open America’s eyes to this need.

“This is not just a matter of policy. It’s also a larger matter of culture to show respect and to basically wrap our arms around veterans and military members,” Kaine said.

Counselors urge all of us to check in with veterans, especially in times of transition such as from military to civilian life.

Farrow said veterans need to remember “it’s OK to not be OK and to get help.”

Help is available at through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Click here to view the #BeThere campaign to raise awareness about veteran suicide.

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