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Together With Hill Country Veterans is a community-led, veteran-led suicide prevention program delivered in partnership with the US Department of Veteran Affairs Office of Rural Health, in conjunction with the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

Susan Becmer is the director of this Kerrville-based program and offers help ranging from a veterinarian-led support group and a six-hour course in “mental health first aid” to an education program for loved ones. military personnel showing symptoms of a mental health problem and a veterans crisis line.

It covers four counties, Kerr, Gillespie, Bandera and Kendall.

“There are 19 programs like this across the country, but they are suitable for rural areas that have a high veteran population and a high number of veteran suicides,” Becmer said.

“Our specific barriers here are less resources, more distance to help resources, more isolation and generally more availability of firearms.

“That’s how it was born about 18 months ago; and calls to crisis lines increased 300-600% during COVID, ”Becmer said.

“Veteran suicide statistics say that since September 11, more veterans have died by suicide than have died in combat,” Becmer said.

The actual numbers were cited as 7,057 US servicemen killed in war operations after 9/11; and 30,177 suicides were counted among US military and post-9/11 veterans. And Becmer said the statistics are generally behind the actual numbers.

In his work, the new term is “to die by suicide” because it is not a crime. She said the community needs to learn the signs of suicide and put each vet in higher care. But anyone can gain knowledge, raise awareness and reduce stigma

She said veterans can suffer from depression, PTSD and “moral injuries” because of what they see overseas.

“Some have seen children killed and it goes against the grain. And their reintegration into society is difficult.

Local services

Becmer’s daily veterinarian suicide prevention efforts are dedicated to the following:

• Veterans who lost their lives by suicide;

• Veterans who have thoughts of suicide;

• Veterans who have tried to kill themselves;

• Those who remain after a death by suicide;

• Veterans in recovery;

• All those who work tirelessly to prevent veteran suicide and suicide attempts in the United States.

“We believe we can and will make a difference,” says its program brochure.

“This includes courses for family members, to learn more about the experiences of vets; and show how different the experiences of the family and the vet are.

She said they take a “public health approach” including families, community, workplace, healthcare, faith and recreation.

Becmer listed six initiatives in this program, including prevention training; improve prevention in primary care; promote correction and help seeking; and improving communications between veterans programs.

Others are improving behavioral health suicide prevention and promoting “deadly safety means”.

“This means that family or friends typically have five to seven minutes between the veteran’s decision to kill himself and its execution. The family or friend can get rid of the pills, or lose the ammo, or whatever, ”Becmer said. “If you have someone in danger and you know the path to suicide, you can stop it.”

All of this is needed, she said, because a 2020 VA report based on 2018 statistics shows veteran suicide rates nationwide to be one and a half times that of adults. non-veterans; whereas the veteran suicide rate is higher in Texas than the national average; and female veterans are twice as likely as female non-veterans to commit suicide.

“Know the signs”

Becmer said family and friends of veterans might recognize one or more of the following signs that a vet is considering suicide:

• He or she is looking for a way to kill;

• The person talks about feeling hopeless or having no purpose;

• He or she donates valuable goods;

• The person talks about being a burden; and / or increased consumption of alcohol or drugs;

• He or she is acting anxious, agitated or reckless;

• The person shows rage or extreme mood swings; or visit or call people to say goodbye.

Becmer said research assesses gender differences in veterans’ risks, showing that men have higher rates of suicide deaths, while women have higher rates of risk factors, including depression. eating disorders, childhood sexual abuse, adult sexual abuse, including intimate “military sexual trauma”. domestic violence, social isolation and unstable housing.

Education available

Becmer has listed the following training opportunities that vets or their family members can find out about.

These include a class called “QPR – Question, Persuader, Refer”, a 1.5 hour virtual class that teaches the language and terminology around the question, accompanying the veterinarian in care and providing advice. way of directing it towards resources.

Those interested can register through Eventbrite and search for “QPR”.

A second option is “NAMI Veteran-led Support Group”, a 90-minute virtual group that “meets” Thursdays from 6:30 pm to 8 pm. Call (210) 734-3349, ext. 103 to register.

Another option is “Mental Health First Aid”, an in-depth six hour course on the ALGEE action plan, mental health disorders and appropriate next levels of care.

Another option is “NAMI Homefront”, an education program specifically for relatives of military personnel who show symptoms of a mental health problem. Becmer said help is here in the following forms.

There is a Veterans Crisis Line by phone at 1-800-273-8255, press 1. People can text 838255; or by “cat” to www.veteranscrisisline.net.

The Hill Country MHDD has a crisis line at (877) 466-0660.

In the “Make the Connection” program, veterinarians and their families share stories of strength and recovery. The website is www.maketheconnection. report.

At the Hill Country Veterans Center in Kerrville and elsewhere, help options include counseling, peer support, and other resources for veterans and their loved ones at community offices across the United States.

In Kerrville, the TWHCV program is based at the Hill Country Veterans Center, 411 Meadowview Ln., Kerrville. The telephone number is (830) 315-5012; and the email is [email protected]

The national number for information is 1-877-WAR-VETS or 927-8387, or visit www.vetcenter.va.gov.

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Daniel Lange

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