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Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System

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GCVHCS Suicide Prevention Coordinators offer helpful tips to Veteran families, friends

September 13, 2018

By Jerron Barnett
GCVHCS Public Affairs Specialist

Department of Veterans Affairs Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System suicide prevention coordinators urge family members and friends of Veterans to pay attention to the warning signs of Veterans in crisis, as often those people are in a prime position to help Veterans get the support they may desperately need.

Common stressful family situations often lead to Veterans in crisis in the gulf coast region, Lynn Worley, GCVHCS suicide prevention coordinator, said.

“For Veterans we’ve served, there are times when relationship trouble or family discord has driven them to a crisis state,” Worley said.  “Substance abuse or dependency, homelessness, dealing with chronic pain and certainly mental illnesses are also contributing factors.”

Veterans who are dealing with these situations will often exhibit the common warning signs of crisis in their social circles, Carrie Musselwhite, GCVHCS suicide prevention coordinator, said.

“There are some common signs that you would see in any person going through those tough situations, such as hopelessness, anxiety, anger, even an increase in their alcohol or drug use,” Musselwhite said.  “Those behaviors may lead to isolation from family and friends.”

Worley offers advice to Veterans’ family and friends if they notice changes.

“Talking with the Veteran, being open and supportive really helps,” Worley said.  “Let the Veteran know that you are concerned, and you are here to help.”

Worley added that if for any reason the family member/friend suspects the Veteran is considering harming themselves, they can be very direct with the Veteran in asking that question. 

“You really want to know what’s going on with that Veteran,” Worley said.

Taking that direct approach debunks a common myth that asking a person about thoughts of suicide will create suicidal thoughts in a person, Musselwhite said.

“[The direct approach] actually gives the Veteran an opportunity to talk about what led them to that point,” she said.  “Take what they say seriously and try not to be judgmental.”

If a Veteran expresses a desire to harm themselves, stay with the Veteran, and the next step should be to get the Veteran to the nearest medical professional immediately, Worley said.

“VA may not always be the closest, but a medical professional can really assess what is going on,” Worley said. Walk-in behavioral health care for those situations is available at all five GCVHCS sites.

“The Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and press 1), chat online at www.veteranscrisline.net or text 838255 are recommended options available to Veteran families and friends too,” Musselwhite said.  The routing of VCL calls will lead to any necessary follow-up care and support from the Suicide Prevention team closest to where the Veteran is located.