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Published January 16, 2013, 11:59 AM

Fargo VA Hospital taking steps to address veteran suicide

Fargo-Moorhead (WDAY TV) - More military members are taking their own lives, than the number of people dying in combat. Efforts at Fargo's VA Hospital are trying to put an end to those shocking statistics.

By: Kay Cooley, WDAY

Fargo-Moorhead (WDAY TV) - More military members are taking their own lives, than the number of people dying in combat. Efforts at Fargo's VA Hospital are trying to put an end to those shocking statistics.

Last year, suicides in the US military reached a record high with nearly 350 people taking their own life. Veterans in Fargo say this increase could be from the high stress of active duty, as well as anxiety of fitting in back home after service.

Marcella Alvarez-Clavijo – Marines Veteran: "I had a really hard time because I was mentally militant"

Marcella is one of many veterans who is fighting to deal with mental illness after serving overseas.

Marcella Alvarez-Clavijo: "I got out in 2003 and I still use the VA. I'm there once every two weeks."

After a record number of military related suicides last year, the Fargo VA is stepping up its prevention program, trying to bring that number down.

Tammy Monsebroten: "I think it's the best option available is to reach people and make sure those services and those resources are in place, before it gets to that point."

The alarming thing is that hundreds of soldiers are dealing with suicidal thoughts while they're still serving. Last year, 349 active duty members killed themselves; a number well above the 295 deaths coming from combat in Afghanistan.

Marcella Alvarez-Clavijo: "It makes me sad because resources are out there. It's just getting the service members to know that it's not a sign of weakness."

The VA offers a variety of programs, including therapy, counseling, and a crisis hotline, but experts say education is key.

Tammy Monsebroten: "So, to have veterans returning from combat and having to deal with those experiences, as well as reintegrating into society, it can be really difficult. So making sure we have the right resources in place continues to be very important."

Marcella Alvarez-Clavijo: "You are a stronger person when you're taking care of yourself, and asking for help is strength in itself, you know.”

The Army had the highest number of active duty suicides as it is the largest of military services. The Marines had the greatest increase, a fifty percent jump from the year before.

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