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Mental health expert: suicide deaths rising each year, mental illness does not discriminate

HANOVER, YORK COUNTY, Pa. -- Roughly 20 veterans take their own lives each day in the United States, according to data from the Department Of Veterans Affairs.

Wednesday night, a mental health expert trained people in York County to spot the warning signs of suicide.

The physician is urging people to listen to others who may be struggling and to ask the difficult question, 'are you having suicidal thoughts?'

While he says talking about suicide is getting less taboo, more people are taking their own lives than in years past.

"It's the 10th leading cause of death in this country now, and it continues to rise every single year," said  John Noullet, a Mental Healthcare Educator with WellSpan.

John Noullet, a mental health educator, is talking about suicide. Noullet taught a small group of people ways to handle the topic at a QPR training class at the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Readiness Center in Hanover, York County. QPR stands for question, persuade, and refer.

He says the question, 'are you having suicidal thoughts' can make a huge difference in someone's life.

"Probably the most difficult thing is actually getting the question out on the table," he said. "When somebody opens up the door just a little bit, a lot of times, it's like a huge weight off their shoulder."

Chris Waltz, the founder of For The Love of a Veteran says people need to be asking the important questions.

"They really should be asking questions. They shouldn't be like, 'oh, they'll be fine' or reach out to somebody. If you lose a friend for saving their life, then you lose a friend," said Waltz.

For The Love of a Veteran is hosting the event because June is National PTSD Awareness Month and because so many veterans take their own lives. Noullet says suicidal thoughts do not discriminate all different types of people have them. On average, out of the 122 people who take their own lives each day in the United States, 22 are veterans.

"That's the equivalent of maybe filling up a 737 of people, crashing it into a mountain, everybody dies, and you do that 365 days a year. To me, that's very preventable, most of the time," said Noullet.

A National Guard Staff Sergeant at the training wants people to know that even though life can seem overwhelming at times, help is always available.

"If you're struggling to get help, especially in the military, the options are boundless. You know when I've had soldiers express suicide, the record skips. Everything stops, and you really go out of your way to help that person," said Staff Sergeant Joseph Yelk.

If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you'd like to attend a QPR training class or know a veteran in need of support, contact Chris@fortheloveofaveteran.org.