A veteran took his own life in a VA hospital parking lot over the weekend as the military scrambles to address the suicide epidemic.
The veteran, whose name has not been released, committed suicide in the visitor parking structure at the Charles George VA Medical Center in North Carolina Sunday morning, according to Military.com.
VA officials released a statement saying, “We are saddened by this loss and extend our deepest condolences to the Veteran’s family, friends and caregivers.”
The statement went on to say, “Charles George VA Medical Center and its community outpatient clinics at Hickory, Rutherford County, and Franklin have many services for Veterans who are struggling with mental health concerns, such as depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, military sexual trauma, and substance use disorders.”
Officials from the Charles George VA facility said suicide prevention is the administration’s “number one clinical priority.”
The Asheville Police Department is investigating the death. No information about the veteran has been released.
The suicide took place just one day after the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs concluded a suicide prevention conference in Denver, Colorado from Aug. 1 to 3.
The nation has seen a recent pattern in veteran suicides that have taken place in various VA facilities and parking lots.
Nineteen veteran suicides at the VA facilities took place between October 2017 and November 2018. Seven occurred in VA parking lots.
According to Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, there has been an excess of 260 suicide attempts at VA facilities in an unspecified time frame, but staff were able to prevent the success of approximately 240 of them.
Dr. Stone told a committee in April, “the nation as a whole must ask itself where society had failed these veterans — a question without a simple answer,” Military.com reported.
There are about 20 veteran suicides daily and “approximately 14 are among veterans who have never been in contact with the VA. Of those 14, about three are Guard and Reserve members who were never activated,” Stone said.
Stone noted, “they [currently] aren’t a veteran but if we can take and extend emergency services to [those with] other than honorable discharges, we sure ought to be able to offer those services to never-activated Guardsmen and Reservists.”
Stone concluded, “If you’ve got a cellphone in your hand, take that cell phone out and put in the following number: 1-800-273-8255.”
The Veterans Crisis Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Services also are available online at www.veteranscrisisline.net or by text, 838255.