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Canandaigua VA suicide hotline takes 43,294 calls

Canandaigua VA suicide hotline takes 43,294 calls

By Julie Sherwood, staff writer
Daily Messenger
Tue Jun 10, 2008, 10:25 AM EDT

Canandaigua, N.Y. -

U.S. Army soldiers committed suicide in 2007 at the highest rate on record, and the toll is climbing this year as long war deployments stretch on.

At the Canandaigua VA Medical Center, the national suicide-prevention hotline had fielded 43,294 calls as of April 30. Of those calls, 885 resulted in a rescue, the VA reported.

When suicidal thoughts include specifics and indicate an immediate danger, emergency medical personnel are dispatched, said Lynn Abaide, suicide prevention coordinator for the Canandaigua VA and its Rochester outpatient clinic.

“We know we need to intervene now,” she said of the rescues. “It’s a team effort.”

All veterans and their families who turn to the hotline receive ongoing help, explained Abaide. “We guide these folks into treatment.”

About half the calls that come to the hotline are from veterans themselves, she said, while the other half tend to be family members and loved ones.

Abaide said frequent redeployments contribute to the mental anguish that can lead to suicidal thoughts.
“That kind of anxiety is great,” she said.

Joanna Nichols, the VA’s administrative program support assistant for returning soldiers, said the VA is adding more programs and services to address the rising number of veterans in trouble. Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries are among the conditions the VA is working to treat.

A support group for veterans and their families meets the second Wednesday of each month, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the VA. It is run by a licensed therapist and is one of a number of initiatives, Nichols said.

To address veterans’ mental-health needs through Congress, U.S. Rep. Randy Kuhl, R-Hammondsport, announced last week the formation of the House Veterans’ Mental Health Caucus. The caucus aims to bring lawmakers together to increase awareness of mental-health needs of returning veterans, including conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, job training and readjustment, suicide prevention and funding needs, Kuhl said.

The caucus “will hold briefings with leading experts in the fields of veterans’ health care and mental health, circulate relevant articles and studies that bring new issues to light, and develop legislative proposals to address the increased importance of mental healthcare within our veterans’ communities nationwide,” he added.

The Associated Press reported the 115 confirmed suicides last year among active-duty soldiers and National Guard and Reserve troops who had been activated amounted to a rate of 18.8 per 100,000 troops — the highest since the Army began keeping records in 1980. Two other deaths are suspected suicides but still under investigation.

So far this year, the trend is comparable to last year, said Lt. Col. Thomas E. Languirand, head of command policies and programs.

As of last week, there had been 38 confirmed suicides this year and 12 more deaths that are suspected suicides but still under investigation, he said.

Contact Julie Sherwood at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 263, or

Re: Canandaigua VA suicide hotline takes 43,294 calls

Our local VA has a couple support groups. One for veterans and one for women, both wives and female vets. The thing is, at least for the women's group, the particiapnt has to be registered with the clinic. For wives, that means he has to be 100%.

Re: Canandaigua VA suicide hotline takes 43,294 calls

Why does he have to be 100%? I'm 60%, yet I get VA care.

Re: Canandaigua VA suicide hotline takes 43,294 calls

I think that she meant that wives cannot get VA medical assistance unless the Vet is 100% disabled.

Re: Canandaigua VA suicide hotline takes 43,294 calls

jacks right.

In order for a Vets spouse to get Med care from the VA he has to be 100%, I think its CHAMPS or something like that.

However, most of the Veterans Centers have programs that both the Veteran and his Spouse can take part in and it doesn't matter what percentage the Vet is.

Our Vet center has programs for couples therapy 5 nights a week.

One thing that I have noticed is that the VA is becoming more aware of the Suicide Problem, I have to go to the VA once a year for my service connected disabilities and was asked by first a Nurse then later when I seen my Doc if I had any suicide thoughts.

I personally think its a shame that it has taken the deaths of so many Veterans by suicide in order for the VA to recognize the problem.

One such case that stands out in my mind was an 87 year old WW2 veteran that took his own life in the parking lot of a VA hospital because he said he could not take it anymore..