GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.-
Suicide is a crisis faced by too many veterans, and the Grand Valley is no exception. With September being Suicide Prevention Month, the Department of Veterans Affairs is stepping up its efforts.
Since day one, the VA has made a commitment to suicide prevention, but over the last couple of years, has taken a more public approach.
According to officials, nearly 18 veterans take their own lives each day across the country.
Though it's hard to tell exactly what the numbers are on the Western Slope, officials say the number is higher than other locations.
VA officials are trying to reduce the number by providing easily available support right away through their crisis line.
“When we look at the numbers, we know that they are high, you can't explain that away,” said Sonja Encke, suicide prevention coordinator at the Grand Junction VA. “When working with individuals that are having thoughts of suicide, treatment and talking about it goes a long way.”
Encke says what makes an effective crisis center work is mainstreaming suicide prevention, and letting people know there is support available.
“Getting people to understand the warning signs for suicide and talking about it simply works,” said Encke. “So in order to intervene at a really early level so crisis doesn't get so large and out of control, where a veteran feels like suicide is their only option, we're intervening at that level.”
The confidential crisis line is toll free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-8255.
The hotline is offered not only to veterans and their families, but any member of the community.
“The important thing is that we know that treatment works and we know that we can intervene at the earliest level of crisis, that goes a long way,” said Encke.
Since the start of the hotline in 2007, they have made over 21,000 life-saving interventions.
Officials from the VA say you can help make more people aware of this crisis by distributing posters and flyers in the community. For more information, click here.