Editor:

Approximately 230,000 veterans live in the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System three-state catchment area (south Mississippi, south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle). Of those, 104,000 are enrolled for care at VA, with about 71,000 actively receiving VA care. Suicide prevention experts claim that of the 20 veterans a day who are committing suicide, 14 of them are not getting their care from VA.

We need your help. The Veterans Crisis Line initiative “Be There for Veterans” gives everyone in the community the tools and resources to use to help a veteran in crisis. The chance is that at some point in your life, you may interact with a veteran that is in crisis. Will you be able to assist?

You don’t need to have special training to support the veterans in your life, and we can all do something to help a veteran who is going through a difficult time. Even seemingly small actions can have a huge impact.

Showing your support can be as simple as sending a veteran a text message — inviting someone over to catch up or sharing a positive thought are both great ways to communicate that you care. 

Educate yourself on how to be a resource in a veteran’s life if they are thinking about suicide. They might show signs of isolation, anger, a loss of hope or just having a hard time reconnecting with the community after leaving the service.

The Suicide Prevention Coordinators for the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System are Lynn Worley, 228-523-4288, and Carrie Musselwhite, 850-912-2310.

For veterans and loved ones in crisis, you can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 for the Veterans Crisis Line.

Bryan C. Matthews,
Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System