Our military veterans have been our frontline protectors facing unknowns and undergoing rigorous training beyond civilian understanding. However, our heroes are not always well equipped in the transition back into civilian life.

A harsh reality is the second leading cause of death in veterans is suicide. Our veterans are at risk of suicide by 50% more than those who have not served.

In the United States, about 17 veterans die by suicide each day. Suicide is a health crisis for many of our veterans, as well as homelessness. About 9% of those adults experiencing homelessness are veterans with 59% of homeless veterans being 51 years old or older.

This Veteran’s Day and/or any other day, reach out to a veteran you may know and offer social non-judgmental support as it may aid in increased optimism and reduce the risk of suicide. Remember suicide is still very stigmatized. The more it is talked about, the less stigma will be there.

Unfortunately, there are not one or two key signs or symptoms to identify whether someone is contemplating suicide. However, there are some indicators that may point to suicidal thoughts. Some symptoms or “cries for help” to look for are:

  • Increased drug or alcohol use
  • Withdrawal from society
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Isolation
  • Threats to kill or harm to self or others
  • Getting affairs in order

If you know a veteran who has just returned from a deployment who is acting out of his or her ordinary demeanor, or someone who is struggling, and you feel they may be contemplating suicide, there are resources you can share or guide them through. Some national and local resources include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Calling 911
  • Calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
  • Calling the nearest Veterans Affairs or Vet Center
  • UofL Health – Peace Hospital Assessment and Referral Center offers no-charge assessments at 502-451-3333 or 800-451-3637
  • Contact the 24-Hour Crisis and Information Center Line at 502-589-4313 or 800-221-0446

This Veteran’s Day and any day after be sure to thank a veteran! So no matter where they are now doing whatever they are doing in the civilian world, a veteran feels and knows they are valued.

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Kelly Gillooly, M.Ed., LCADC

Kelly Gillooly, M.Ed., LCADC, is the director of behavioral health outreach at UofL Health – Peace Hospital. She is a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor. Kelly has worked in the behavioral health field for more than 25 years and has been with Peace Hospital since 2012.

All posts by Kelly Gillooly, M.Ed., LCADC
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