With suicide rates the highest in two decades here and the risk especially prevalent among veterans, the Butler County Veterans Service Commission is again hosting a Silent Watch on Wednesday to raise awareness.
On average, 17 veterans are lost to suicide daily. Last year, eight Butler County service people took their own lives and there have been several this year. During the Silent Watch,volunteers stand guard over a flag draped casket outside the Vet Board office at the Government Services Center in Hamilton from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.
BCVSC Executive Director Mike Farmer said they have 203 slots — as of Monday only one slot remained at 6:20 p.m. — filled by volunteers spanning the entire 17 hours.
“We added an additional 63 opportunities to stand watch this year as veterans suicide is an issue within Butler County. Butler County has seen seven veterans die by suicide this year alone, spanning 31 years in age,” Farmer said. “Our message directly to Veterans is it is okay to ask for help and we as a community are with you, even during your most vulnerable thoughts.”
This is the third year hosting the event, and last year they had two veterans in crisis ask for help. They have mental health specialists from the Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board, the Cincinnati VA and the Butler County Suicide Prevention Coalition ready to help.
Farmer said in February the VA activated the COMPACT Act which allows veterans “with an acute suicidal crisis” to receive treatment at any VA or non-VA health care facility at no cost. There is more information at: va.gov/cincinnati-health-care/stories/what-does-compact-act-mean-for-veterans.
Scott Rasmus, executive director of the county mental health and addiction board, told the Journal-News as of Sept. 13 the coroner’s office reported there have been 42 deaths by suicide countywide this year and last year 64, which was the highest in 21 years. He said “this is a very important event we take very seriously.”
“We recognize the needs of not only veterans but a significant increase in deaths related to suicide over the last couple years in Butler County,” Rasmus said. “We are constantly attempting to evaluate our services and identify key populations like veterans, and middle-aged folks and others to better try to reach out and tough these individuals to offer information, listening and understanding and provide help.”
He noted people in crisis can also dial 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and the Beckett Springs hotline at 1-844-4CRISIS for immediate help.