Veteran’s Corner: REACH: A call to action to engage the nation in preventing suicide

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    By Raymond Taylor
    Archuleta County Veterans Service Office

    The White House and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently launched the REACH national public health campaign aimed at empowering all Americans to play a critical role in preventing suicide. 

    The goal of REACH, which was established by the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS), is to change the conversation around suicide by urging people to recognize their own risk and protective factors — as well as the risk and protective factors of their loved ones. 

    “REACH will empower our nation’s veterans to seek and receive help and it will encourage them to reach out to their brothers and sisters in need who may be vulnerable,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The power of this campaign will change how we talk about mental health and suicide in our nation. It will ensure that those in need, especially the men and women who have served our great nation, will receive the care and support they deserve.” 

    “The REACH campaign will inspire and educate all Americans — encouraging them to share their own struggles and to reach out to those who are hurting. It will engage our veterans to help lead the way as we change how we think about, talk about and address suicide,” said PREVENTS Executive Director Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen. “I urge everyone to go to wearewithinreach.net and take the PREVENTS Pledge to REACH and be part of the solution. Together, we will prevent suicide.” 

    The website also includes information on factors that may protect against suicide, such as belonging to a faith-based community, healthy family relationships, having a purpose in life and strong problem-solving skills. REACH encourages everyone to intentionally strengthen their protective factors — to care for their emotional health and well-being just as they do their physical well-being. 

    Although suicide is preventable, the nation is facing an epidemic in deaths, with 132 Americans dying by suicide each day. In 2017, there were 47,173 suicide deaths and an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts. For veterans, the overall suicide rate is 1.5 times higher and the female veteran suicide rate is 2.2 times higher than the general population after adjusting for age and/or gender. 

    To that end, the REACH campaign website provides information to help people recognize risk factors for suicide, including financial stress, chronic illness or pain, isolation and mental illness, in themselves and in their loved ones. It also links to resources that can provide assistance in avoiding the hopelessness that can lead to suicide. 

    If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide or is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for confidential support 24 hours a day at (800) 273-8255. Veterans and service members, including National Guard and Reserve, who need immediate help should call the (800) number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line, chat online at www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat or text 838255.

    For further information, please contact the Veteran Services Office (VSO).

    The office of Archuleta County veterans service officer provides assistance to qualified military veterans, and their families, or a veteran’s survivors, in applying to and in obtaining VA program assistance, benefits and claims. This assistance is provided within the guidelines, policies and procedures established by the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. This is a mandated program of the state of Colorado.

    Contact information

    Veterans: Thank you for your service. Welcome home.

    For further information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County VSO, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard.

    The office: 264-4013, fax number: 264-4014, and email is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO. Always leave me a message and phone number to contact you.

    The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

    • American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

    • Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Episcopal Church, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd.

    • Combat Veterans PTSD Group: every other Tuesday at noon, Community United Methodist Church, Lewis Street. Contact Gary Hanneman at 946-2540.

    • Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: first and third Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., Dr. Carter’s office; contact Charlotte at 903-9690.

    Important information

    • 799-VETS, www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.

    • Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

    • Farmington VA Center: (505) 326-4383.

    • VAMC Albuquerque, N.M.: (800) 465-8262.

    • VA Health Care Emergency Notification: (844) 724-7842.

    The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online, or text 838255.