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6,139 veterans died by suicide in 2017, 97 of whom were Arkansans

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Department of Veteran’s Affairs (ADVA), the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), the Arkansas Veteran’s Coalition and the Central Arkansas Veteran’s Healthcare System’s (CAVHS) Suicide Prevention Program have formed a partnership to address the issue of veteran suicide in the state. This Veteran’s Day, we want current and former service men and women to know there is help and hope.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Veterans can access the Veteran Crisis Line by calling the national line and pressing 1. Anyone can also text the crisis line by sending TALK to 741741 or chat online at www.chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

According to the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention annual report, 6,139 veterans died by suicide in 2017, 97 of whom were Arkansans. A single organization cannot tackle suicide prevention alone. It takes multiple people working together to reach those in crisis. Partners and interested groups across all service sectors are needed to help reduce the number of suicides in Arkansas.

“We have to embrace a comprehensive public health approach to reduce suicides in our state, one that looks beyond the individual to involve peers, family members and communities,” said Stephanie Williams, RN, MPH, ADH Chief of Staff. “Public health emphasizes efforts to prevent violence before it happens. This approach requires addressing factors that put people at-risk for, or protect them from, engaging in suicidal behavior.”

On Sept. 5, leaders from ADH, ADVA, CAVHS, Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council, the Arkansas Veteran’s Coalition, the Arkansas National Guard and a representative from Sen. John Boozman’s office met to discuss a partnership in combatting suicide in the state.

The group met again on Oct. 9 and included additional members from the Arkansas National Guard and ADH Hometown Health Improvement. Both meetings provided an opportunity for the organizations to work together to create a suicide prevention program focused on veterans, military personnel and civilians.

“Because active military and veterans are also members of our communities, military specific prevention must be integrated into the activities of all organizations and programs that builds resiliency and provides services and support to our communities,” said ADVA Secretary Nate Todd. “Helping our partners understand military culture and integrate suicide prevention into their work will promote a greater understanding of suicide and help counter the stigma that can prevent active military and veterans from seeking help.”

“The Arkansas National Guard has Soldiers and Airmen in every county in the state. This geographic dispersion renders centralized solutions problematic. We look forward to working with our partners to provide services to our Guardsmen where they live and eliminate suicide from our ranks,” Major General Kendall Penn, Adjutant General, Arkansas National Guard added.

Communication efforts such as the “Let’s Talk About It” campaign and #BeThere also play an important role in changing knowledge, attitudes and behaviors to help prevent suicide. Safe and positive messaging addressing mental illness, substance misuse and suicide can help reduce stigma and promote help-seeking from those in crisis.

The ADH Injury and Violence Prevention Section works to prevent suicides through education, resources and awareness. To learn more about the trainings and resources that are available for your group, business or school, visit http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/suicide-prevention.

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