Attempted suicide at VA center coincides with greater prevention efforts
Two weeks after a veteran committed suicide at the Houston Veteran Affairs medical center, another veteran shot himself Monday morning at the Department of Veterans Affairs Olin E. Teague Veterans' Medical Center in Temple.
The veteran, who officials are not identifying, was taken to Scott and White Hospital's trauma unit and remained in the intensive care unit Monday afternoon.
The suicide attempt came on the same day the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing in Pittsburgh into "preventable deaths" at VA medical centers around the country, including several suicides at the Atlanta VA medical center.
On Monday, Central Texas VA officials say, the veteran walked into the hospital around 7:55 a.m. and went to a public restroom near the entrance and shot himself. VA officials would not disclose the man's age or the type of treatment he was receiving at the medical center.
It is the third suicide or attempted suicide at a VA medical center in the past 15 days.
On Aug. 25, officials say a veteran in his 40s entered a side entrance of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston and went to a nearby restroom, where he shot and killed himself.
A day later, a 62-year-old veteran killed himself in the bathroom of a Fort Harrison, Mont., VA medical center, according to the Helena Independent Record.
In both Texas cases, VA officials issued statements with identical wording: "We are conducting a full review of the circumstances surrounding this case to identify potential lessons learned so we can further enhance our Suicide Prevention Program."
Officials at both medical centers also said they have three suicide prevention coordinators and a "very robust suicide prevention program."
Central Texas VA officials were unable to say if there had been previous suicides or suicide attempts at the Temple hospital in recent years.
In January, the VA released a study showing that about 8,000 veterans killed themselves in 2010, an average of 22 veterans per day. That's an increase of more than 20 percent over the estimated 18 veteran suicides per day in 2007.
A 2012 American-Statesman investigation into deaths of Texas veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan found that the percentage younger than 34 committing suicide was 1.7 times higher than the overall Texas population of similar age.
Veterans or family members in need of assistance can call the VA's Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, or chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net. They may also send a text message to 838255 to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.