How VA helps veterans battling depression

20 veterans commit suicide each day

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The deaths of chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kade Spade are shining a light on a topic that is approaching a crisis. 

The two celebrities died days apart this week amid a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showing an uptick in suicides rates in nearly every state since 1999. 

Although the suicides that often make headlines are about celebrities, there is a group dealing with a staggering number of deaths by suicide: veterans. 

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 20 veterans die by suicide each day, and veterans' suicides account for 18 to 20 percent of all suicides in the country. 

On Friday, News4Jax spoke with Katherine Eicher, the lead suicide prevention coordinator at the VA Clinic in downtown Jacksonville, about how the VA helps veterans battling depression.

"We have same-day access to care, walk-in crisis intervention, services that are available at all of our clinics," Eicher said. "Veterans can walk in at any time and be seen by a mental health provider. We have our veterans crisis line, national hotline specific to veterans."

Eicher said to be aware of the No. 1 warning sign: isolation. 

Other signs include changes in behavior, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, sleeping too much, change in appearance and poor work performance.

Eicher explained what to do if veterans' loved ones observe any of those signs.

"You talk about it and you say, 'I've noticed that things are a little bit different. How are things going?'" she said. "We have to break the stigma around suicide. We have to break the stigma around mental health."

Eicher said veterans who had frequent deployments or deployments in hostile environments, experienced physical or sexual assault in the military, or suffered service-related injuries are more likely to die by suicide.

The VA will also help those dishonorable discharged with emergency mental health needs.

To get help now, call the Veterans Crisis Line, available 24/7, at 1-800-273-8255. Veterans, press “1” after calling.

Visit the Veterans Crisis Line website to chat live online with a crisis counselor 24/7.

Veterans can also visit the VA website for more information on mental health services.

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Lifetime Floridian anchors weekends and reports weekdays on issues in Nassau and Baker counties and beyond.