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Delaware joins initiative focused on preventing suicide among veterans

 A flag memorial for veterans who have died by suicide at the Wilmington VA hospital in Elsmere
Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media
A flag memorial for veterans who have died by suicide at the Wilmington VA hospital in Elsmere

Delaware is putting a spotlight on preventing suicide among service members, veterans, and their families.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and 11th in Delaware. According to the CDC, 45,000 people die from suicide each year.

And last year alone veterans committing suicide accounted for 20 percent of the country’s suicides.

Gov. John Carney and Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long are supporting the Veterans Affairs Governor’s Challenge on Suicide Prevention.

It’s a national push for a public health approach to the issue.

In Delaware, that means promoting best practices while bringing city, county, and state stakeholders together for coordinated suicide prevention efforts.

Hall-Long is leading Delaware’s efforts in the challenge. She says one key to reducing suicides is convincing everyone, including vets, there’s no stigma in getting help.

"It's okay not to be okay, and that there are alternatives to harming oneself or doing the ultimate tragic occurrence which is taking one's own life," said Hall-Long.

That includes working with the VA and Department of Health and Human Services to implement the National Strategy for the Prevention of Veteran Suicide locally.

Wilmington VA Medical Center Director Vince Kane explains some of the work already being done to help vets in the First State.

"We have put some things in place in emergency rooms where we have consistent screening for veterans when they come in about risk for suicide,” said Kane. “We've added more mental health professionals and not only at the medical center, but at also in all of our community-based outpatient clinics. We're embedding mental health professionals even in our primary care clinics again trying to address stigma."

There are also efforts to build community awareness - such as this weekend’s Walk for Vets in Dover that’s focused on veteran suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other issues vets face. It gets underway Saturday at 9:30 am at Leg Hall.

Veterans needing help can call the VA’s 24/7 National Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, or the Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.