PTSD/Substance Abuse Committee Update November/December 2017

Thomas C. Hall, Ph. D., PTSD/Substance Abuse Committee Chair

The PTSD/Substance Abuse Committee has been active with suicide prevention town halls throughout the country. 

Last year, VVA chapters, states, and regions have sponsored town halls on suicide prevention.

The PTSD/SA Committee acknowledges the difficulty in discussing suicide. Yet we must have that discussion—just talking with a friend or family member who is considering suicide can help stop that person from taking his or her life. The following action steps, taken from the National Institute of Mental Health website, can disrupt someone’s attempt at suicide.

Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.

Keep Them Safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.

Be There: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.

Help Them Connect: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number in your phone so it’s there when you need it: 800-273-TALK (8255), Veterans, press 1. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual such as a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.

Stay Connected: Staying in touch after a crisis or after the at-risk person has been discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown that the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

There is much more to talk about suicide prevention. When others realize they are not alone in their experience, the entire community can become healthier and more supportive to veterans and their families.

Thomas C. Hall, Ph. D., Chair

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