Suicide Prevention For Veterans

By Anayeli Ruiz
NewsWest 9

BIG SPRING - For American service members, who have returned home from combat, the transition to day-to-day life can be a struggle. For some it's so difficult, they take their own lives but the VA hospital in Big Spring is working to help veterans of war.

Every year more than 6,000 war veterans die from suicide across the United States. It has become so common for veterans that the VA is trying to help them and their families prevent it before its too late.

"I attempted to kill myself," Vietnam Veteran, A.C. "Sandy" Betus, said.

Betus is a Vietnam war veteran. Everything in his life seemed to be going fine until one night he decided to commit suicide.

"I took the truck to a hose pipe in the ignition and rolled up the windows," Betus said.

But these thoughts just didn't happen overnight. Betus had been depressed for a while and he didn't even know it until something set him off.

"Seeing the Vietnam pictures, that really made me angry and I just felt like an outsider with my family," Betus said.

Just like Betus there are many war veterans going through the same thing and ignoring the signs. That's why the VA is trying to help people recognize this problem.

"Suicidal thoughts are often something that people want to keep inside them. They don't understand and they want to stay in silence because they are embarrassed but they need to talk to someone about it," Jesse F. Burgard, Chief of Mental Health Services at the VA, said.

The most difficult part for many is just sharing their feelings. Experts say most of the time soldiers feel like no one understands them, but the VA Hospital says they are here to listen.

"Help is out there if you're strong enough to ask for help.  It's easier to go to combat than to ask for help," Betus said.

The VA has many outlets to help these soldiers including peer programs from fellow veterans who've gone through the same issues. They have also created a 24 hour hotline to help them get through the tough times.

The Hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).