The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is encouraging everyone to light a candle at 8 p.m. tonight, Sept. 10, in observance of World Suicide Prevention Day. The annual observance is organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention.
Veterans who are in crisis are urged to call the toll-free Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1. This service is available for everyone 24/7 and all calls are confidential.
More than 47,000 people commit suicide a year in the United States, but military veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than Americans who never served in the military. For female veterans, the risk factor is 2.2 times more likely. Pennsylvania serves and advocates for nearly 800,000 veterans – the fourth largest veteran population in the nation.
“It is very important that everyone continues the conversation about veteran suicide and prevention,” said Rick Hamp, special assistant to the deputy adjutant general for Veterans Affairs. “Lighting a candle on Sept. 10 is one way to raise awareness and to keep that discussion going. It is also one small but powerful gesture to show veterans that they are not alone – they are thought about and appreciated every day.”
Hamp is also Pennsylvania’s team lead on the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans and Their Families. Pennsylvania is one of 35 states taking part in the Governor’s Challenge. Participants work to implement statewide suicide prevention best practices and learn from stakeholders nationwide.
“Veterans are strong and have been trained to carry the load, but you do not have to do it by yourself anymore,” said Hamp. “There are people in every community available to support you. All you have to do is reach out. We are stronger together.”