VA of El Paso works to prevent suicide among veterans


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Helping veterans struggling in our community — that’s what the VA of El Paso wants to do, as we enter suicide prevention month.

According to the VA of El Paso, 20 veterans die by suicide every day nationwide. That’s down from the 22 deaths a day in years past, but the VA says their goal is zero.

“They’ve come to a point where they don’t think there’s an answer,” said Dr. Connie Ponce, the Chief of Mental Health El Paso VA.

Officials say 75 percent of veterans who commit suicide had only ever been seen by a primary care provider and not a mental health specialist.

That’s why they say more people need to be trained to identify symptoms and get veterans the help they need before it’s too late.

“We want to be able to identify any individual who may even have had thoughts of it before it actually becomes an actual attempt or death,” said Dr. Ponce.

To help identify those individuals, the VA says they need more people to be trained to notice when someone is showing signs of being suicidal.

“We need people beyond mental health, we need beyond clinicians in the mental health arena to be able to identify symptoms,” said Dr. Ponce. “This is where the general public comes into play, friends, family members, clergies, teachers, practitioners, anyone who comes in contact with military personal who may benefit from hey do you need some help”.

The VA of El Paso says the most lethal means veterans use to commit suicide is by firearm. This is why they are taking extra precautions to make sure they are locked up and away from a veteran who may be suicidal.

“Veterans who do have access to firearms have availability to locks. Part of this is to be able to restrict access at the time that they are in that crisis mode. We do give away free locks to veterans we will give them away to family members,” said Dr. Ponce.

Throughout the month of September, the VA of El Paso will be holding multiple events for the community and veterans regarding suicide prevention.

This is all in an effort to protect the ones who once protected us.

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