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VA Portland director: Preventing veteran suicide a top priority


By Darwin G. Goodspeed

Director, VA Portland Health Care System

Preventing Veteran suicide is a top priority for the VA, the VA Portland Health Care System, and it is a national public health issue that affects all Americans. Just as in the general population, there is no single cause of suicide among Veterans. A death by suicide often reflects the complex interaction of risk factors at the individual, community, and societal levels.

Over the last decade, VA has implemented numerous programs, policies, and initiatives related to suicide prevention. Locally, the VAPORHCS Suicide Prevention Team provides timely follow up to any Veteran or loved one who’s called the Veterans Crisis Line – in 2018, the team responded to 1,800 referrals helping Oregon and Southwest Washington Veterans access health care, coordinated enhanced mental health care for Veterans at high risk for suicide, and they provided information on VA and community resources for housing, financial, and other social service assistance.

Our Suicide Prevention Team hosts suicide prevention support groups for Veterans at five locations within the VAPORHCS. Any interested Veteran should reach out to the team at 503-402-2857.

Our team also provides more than 10 outreach and training events every month with organizations in the communities we serve. If your organization is interested in understanding suicide and how to help prevent suicide, please contact our team to set up a training or to attend an outreach event.

Some of the resources VA offers to Veterans, their family members and friends include:

The #BeThere campaign ( — emphasizing that everyday connections can make a big difference to someone going through a difficult time and that individuals don’t need special training to safely talk about suicide risk or show concern for someone in crisis.

Make the Connection ( — providing hopeful stories, information and solutions to issues affecting Veterans.

The Veterans Crisis Line ( — a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text to connect with qualified, caring VA responders. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or text a message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24/7/365. All of us should have this number in our cell phones should a Veteran need support.

We all can make a difference in preventing Veteran suicide.

Thank you for being a part of the solution.

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