By JENNIFER MESCHINELLI
---- — PLATTSBURGH — With suicide rates for veterans on the rise, Plattsburgh-area mental health advocates are educating the community about mental-health help that is available, hoping that vets will reach out before attempting suicide.
Ten months into 2012, the number of suspected suicides nationally by active-duty soldiers has surpassed last year’s total, according to the Associated Press. The biggest concern is that the rates are rising as the military has been trying to offer more services to prevent suicides.
“Unfortunately, in the military climate, despite the services offered, it is not always conducive to dealing with mental health issues,” said Mary Anne Cox, a licensed clinical social worker with NAMI: Champlain Valley.
Today at 5 p.m., a free program will be held at the American Legion Post 20 on Quarry Road, Plattsburgh, to help prevent suicide among veterans. The program is open not only to veterans, but their family and friends as well. Cox helped organize the event in hopes that people will come see what is available for help and learn the suicide warning signs.
“It’s for people who are concerned about the possibility of suicide in their life or a family member’s,” said Bonnie Black of Behavioral Health Services North. “Sometimes it’s loved ones that recognize the changes in someone that could lead to suicide.”
The evening will include guest speakers, a panel of survivors of suicide and mental health providers. Jordanna Malloch, of Lake Placid, a captain in the Air National Guard, will be speaking about her military experiences and the difficulties involved in being deployed.
The free program is being offered by the Office of Mental Health/Mental Health Association of New York State Suicide Prevention Grant Project of the MAPP, Mental Health Subcommittee. The group includes representatives from Behavioral Health Services North, Eastern Adirondack Healthcare Network, NAMI: Champlain Valley and the Mental Health Associations of Clinton and Franklin counties.
The group hopes participants will learn to both take mentions of suicide seriously and to get families and veterans talking about suicide.
“People are very hesitant to talk about depression and other related disorders,” Black said. “But there is help out there.”