AUSTIN – The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is highlighting the numerous resources available to veterans as the state observes Texas Veterans Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 22.
During the 88th Texas Legislative Session, Governor Greg Abbott and lawmakers designated Sept. 22 as Texas Veterans Suicide Prevention Day. The House resolution (PDF) notes that “the wounds sustained through armed service to the United States are both visible and invisible,” and emphasizes the critical importance of providing veterans and their families access to support and resources.
“Veterans Suicide Prevention Day reminds us that many veterans have experienced trials that most of us will never comprehend,” said Governor Greg Abbott. “Texans are forever indebted to the brave men and women who fought to protect the precious freedoms we enjoy every day. No veteran should feel hopeless or alone. Together, we can make sure these heroes don’t face life’s burdens on their own. If you or a loved one is a veteran in crisis, please call 9-8-8 for support.”
Veterans comprise a disproportionate percentage of adult suicides in the United States. In 2020, an average of 17 current or former members of the armed forces died by suicide each day, according to the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.
Texas veterans in crisis can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
“Those in the U.S. armed forces — all of its branches and all its duty statuses — deserve the best we can give to honor their service,” said Tim Keesling, director of HHSC Office of Veterans Services Coordination. “Asking for help displays both leadership and courage. Veterans need to know that help is just a phone call or text message away.”
Sen. Bob Hall, a co-author of the House resolution and a member of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs, said veterans often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or have sustained traumatic brain injuries, making them more prone to suicidal tendencies.
“Designating Sept. 22 as Texas Veterans Suicide Prevention Day will create awareness for Texans everywhere of the silent killer to our brave heroes who have sacrificed so much for our freedom and the steps that could be taken to prevent it,” Hall said.
Rep. Ray Lopez, also a co-author and vice chair of the House Defense and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the designation is a first step in recognizing the silent war that has raged in the minds of veterans.
“Texas Veterans Suicide Prevention Day is not just about prevention. It is about reaching out, offering support, and helping them heal because as Americans we owe it to them,” Lopez said. “In doing so, we’re crafting a future that promotes meaningful change through our collective efforts. In the end, we need to provide all of them with the hero’s welcome they truly deserve."
Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) Veterans Mental Health Director Blake Harris said veterans' service and sacrifice can result in an increased risk of suicide and noted the importance of people understanding the signs of mental health issues and how to help.
“The Texas Veterans Commission partners with agencies and stakeholders across the state to enhance access to mental health resources such as training and technical assistance,” he said. “Our Military Veteran Peer Network is an excellent example of how being in direct contact with veterans improves well-being.”
Additional resources and programs dedicated to veterans include:
- Mental Health Program for Veterans. HHSC administers the program in partnership with the Texas Veterans Commission. Through local mental health authorities and behavioral health authorities the Mental Health Program for Veterans provides peer-to-peer counseling to service members, veterans and their families who have experienced military trauma or are at risk of not receiving the support they need.
- The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 for a confidential chat. Confidential support for veterans and their loved ones is available online or by dialing 988 and choosing option 1. Veterans can also reach out for help by texting 838255.
- The Texas Veterans + Family Alliance Grant Program aims to make mental health services and treatments more accessible for veterans. These include evidence-based therapies and treatment, peer support services, individual and family counseling, suicide prevention initiatives and other efforts.
- The TVC’s Veterans Mental Health Department connects veterans to local services and partners with organizations to address veteran-specific issues like suicide prevention, homelessness and military-related trauma.
- HHSC funds and administers the TexVet initiative which includes a website created by the Texas A&M University Health Science Center. By entering their ZIP code on the TexVet website, veterans and their loved ones can access a list of local organizations that can help them receive mental health services, emergency housing, legal assistance and other services.
Veterans can find additional resources and crisis assistance at the MentalHealthTX Veterans webpage.