Suicide prevention has become one of the highest-stated priorities for Veterans Affairs medical centers across the country.
The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System is focused on creating awareness on how to prevent suicide among service members and their families. The effort includes the Veterans Crisis Line, which can be reached by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1.
It also includes Suicide Prevention Awareness Informational Fairs. On Friday morning, 14 clinics across South Georgia and North Florida will host events designed to raise awareness and save lives.
"So at every one of our sites of care, we're going to have a suicide prevention display. We'll have clinicians manning the tables with some suicide prevention materials, being able to answer any questions that individuals have about suicide prevention," said Thomas Wisnieski, director of the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System.
Wisnieski told News4Jax that the two-hour time frame at the events allows people to learn warning signs for veterans or loved ones in crisis. It's key to notice the signs of feeling hopeless and to know ways to intervene.
"One of the things is to put some kind of interrupter into that thought process that someone is intent on committing suicide, so engaging conversation about, 'Are you alright? Is there something that I can do?'" Wisnieski said. "There's a lot of success stories for people who are aware of the signals and then take that step to engage and save a life."
The North Florida South Georgia Veterans Health System will host the Suicide Prevention Awareness Informational Fairs on Friday, Jan. 25, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the following facilities:
Malcom Randall VAMC (1601 SW Archer Road, 32608)
Lake City VAMC (619 S. Marion Ave., 32025)
The Villages OPC (8900 SE 165th Mulberry Lane, 32162)
Tallahassee HCC (2181 E. Orange Ave., 32311)
Jacksonville OPC (1536 N. Jefferson St, 32209)
Lecanto CBOC (2804 W. Marc Knighton Court, 34461)
Marianna CBOC (4970 Highway 80, 32446)
Ocala CBOC (1515 E. Silver Springs Blvd., 34470)
Palatka CBOC (400 N. State Road 19, 32177)
Perry CBOC (1224 N. Peacock Ave., 32347)
St. Augustine CBOC (195 Southpark Blvd., 32086)
St. Marys CBOC (2603 Osborne Road, Suite E, 31558)
Valdosta CBOC (2841 N. Patterson St., 31602)
Waycross CBOC (515B City Blvd., 31501)
Included during the Suicide Prevention Awareness fairs are manned tables with information and resources. Resources available at each table will include #BeThere campaign materials, gun safety information and Veterans Crisis Line materials (brochures, wallet cards, risk assessment flyers, keychains, pillboxes where available).
The fairs are open to the public.
In addition to participating in the planned fair activities, veterans and their loved ones, friends and others are encouraged to download, post and share the posters available at www.visn8.va.gov/SaveALife.asp.
Again, to connect with a responder with the Veterans Crisis Line, call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.