Veteran’s Suicide Prompts Review Of Prevention Efforts

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TEMPLE (October 31, 2013) -- VA Officials are currently conducting an internal review after a veteran walked into a public restroom at the Temple VA Hospital last September and shot himself.

The veteran died days later at Scott & White Hospital in Temple.

The suicide brings light to a growing trend amongst veterans. A trend, both VA and Military officials are very aware about.

“Any loss of life is a tragic event, especially when it's a suicide," Central Texas’ Veterans Health Care System Lead Suicide Prevention Coordinator Natalie Qualls said.

"We hope veterans see that there are other options and resources available to them before contemplating suicide."

According to documents obtained by News 10, there have been 24 suicide attempts at VA Hospitals in Temple and Waco since 2003.

Seventeen attempts were reported at the Temple VA Hospital, and seven at the VA Hospital in Waco.

Out of the 24, 13 dealt with overdoses, 7 involved self-inflicting lacerations and stab wounds, 2 stemmed from strangulation attempts, one involved ingesting a poisonous substance, and one dealt with an attempted suicidal jump.

September’s suicide will be the second in ten years after a man shot himself in the Temple VA Hospital’s parking lot in 2005.

For both hospitals in Waco and Temple, the VA has three full-time suicide prevention coordinators and what it describes as a robust prevention program aimed at identifying and helping veterans who are coping with issues ranging from chronic health problems to struggles to transition back to civilian life.

Still, the numbers are troubling to Qualls.

“Any number is too high. What it boils down to for us, is trying to figure out the issues that veteran or veterans were struggling with," Qualls said.

"We look at the cases and do a formal review to see if there's anything we could have done differently"

Yet despite the numbers, Qualls did say the quality of help available to veterans has improved, mainly after VA officials called for better suicide prevention efforts, contraband searches, and staff education system wide.

“Most of our success in suicide prevention can be seen through our crisis hotlines. Since 2007, we’ve fielded 814,000 calls nationwide and have rescued an estimated 28,000 veterans from suicide,” Qualls said.

Nevertheless, as VA officials continue to investigate last month’s suicide, Qualls encourages any veteran seeking help to speak up.

"Because it is an ‘elephant in the room’ subject, sometimes it's best to just address it and try to help."

For assistance, call the Veteran Crisis Hotline at (800) 273-8255 OR visit the website below.