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Hopes Of Raising Awareness During Nat'l Suicide Prevention Week

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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - This is National Suicide Prevention Week and experts say the goal is to raise awareness about the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

The focus on suicide comes at a time when the mental health profession is talking about the need for more psychiatrists. In Texas, about 200 of the 254 counties are designated as lacking enough psychiatric care.

The problem of suicide is also a big issue with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Doctor Caitlin Thompson is the Deputy Director of VA Suicide Prevention and helped launch a joint suicide prevention effort. She explained, "The Power of 1 is the Veterans Crisis Line new campaign this year and it really speaks to the fact that just one act and one small thing can really change a veteran's life. It could be one conversation, one call to the crisis line, [or] one chat."

While the Power of 1 has trained specialists available to help, Thompson says there are steps anyone an take to help a person in crisis. "What you would want to do is really talk to the person, ask them how they're doing, find out what might be going on in their life. If you're concerned about them -- say something."

With Texas facing a severe shortage, lawmakers recently voted to pay the student loans of psychiatrists willing to work in under-served areas. While there is definitely a need for more experts in the field, Thompson said the federal government is stepping up.

"The VA has certainly gone through some struggles in terms of access to care, but their number one priority is really taking care of veterans," she said before reminding the public that there are resources available. "If somebody is in crisis, even if they don't use VA, you're always welcome to call the Veterans Crisis Line. Any family member can call on behalf of a veteran and we'll make sure that they'll get the care that they need."

While suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults, it is the 2nd leading cause of death for teens. Gary Godsey, with the Association of Texas Professional Educators, says a new law that went into effect this month could save lives. "This bill simply has Texas educators getting suicide prevention education during this year," he said. "So, the more people that are prepared and know the signs the better I think we'll be in preventing suicide in the future."

Godsey says the goal is to have teachers trained in a way that will help them spot problems before they turn deadly. "Many times suicide victims show signs leading up to suicide. In fact, four out of five demonstrate some kind of signs had people known those signs were there. Since they [students] spend so many hours a day in the school perhaps they [educators] could have headed that off."

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, nearly 90-percent of people view physical and mental health as equally important.

National Suicide Prevention Week runs September 6 through 12. Use the hashtag #StopSuicide to join the conversation.

Call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with someone now, or text 838255 to get help immediately.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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