Adalberto Morales, one of two Suicide Prevention Coordinators at Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center (VAMC), gave an outstanding talk to the Council at its 15 May business meeting. His sole purpose is to help those contemplating suicide to get to needed help, no matter where – within the VA system or within the community. Together with Denise Carey, they operate 24/7 and are busy.
Morales affirmed suicide has become a serious problem for veterans and it is a problem for more than those who have more recently served, the focus of most media articles. He has witnessed an increase among Vietnam era veterans as they retire also. As a result, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates since 2010, a suicide occurs every 11 to 15 minutes (or about 105 suicides daily). Consequently, suicide has risen from the fifteenth to the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.
Making matters worse, the Lehigh Valley and Northeastern Pennsylvania are already known for their high suicide rates in their populations. The Wilkes-Barre VAMC has 35 active cases currently being closely monitored, but over the last year, there have been six ‘completions’ and more than 60 “serious attempts” at suicide have occurred – “ideations” being in the hundreds. Therefore, the Wilkes-Barre VAMC Coordinators alternate to provide a 24/7 service, the only ones in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system to do so other than those in the national Crisis Call Center. (more…)