September is Suicide Awareness Prevention Month. To mark the occasion, both the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System are hosting suicide prevention awareness fairs Friday.
There will also be a separate event benefiting the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay that evening.
Mental health specialists from the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, along with partners from the Hillsborough County Veterans Services, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, and Mission United, will be at the awareness fair from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the hospital's second floor auditorium at 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in Tampa. The event is open to all members of the community.
“The fair is more about creating awareness of the risk of suicide, but also the community programs and resources that people can turn to when they need it,” said Dr. Troy Howell, the Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Haley VA.
“As the theme says: #bethere. It’s really just being there for anybody interested in learning about the resources, and having those available in a tangible way, that they can take with them and use if necessary in the future.”
According to Howell, the suicide risk for the civilian and the veteran population is increasing at a relatively high rate. “The understood rate right now is 20 veterans die per day by suicide.”
The fair at Bay Pines will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Bay Pines, as well as outpatient facilities in Bradenton, Cape Coral, Palm Harbor, Port Charlotte, Naples, Sarasota, Sebring, and St. Petersburg.
Vet Centers located in Clearwater, Fort Myers, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Naples will also be participating. You can find addresses by visiting www.baypines.va.gov and clicking “locations and directions.”
Another local group that works to prevent suicide will benefit from a fundraiser being held later that evening. Money raised at the annual Beer and Bow Ties event will go to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, which offers counseling through its 211 hotline.
“It’s the fourth year of the event, and it’s basically our way to raise awareness around mental health but specifically suicide and prevention of suicide. We donate 100% of the money raised back to the Crisis Center,” said Brent Kraus, co-founder and chair of Beer and Bow Ties.
Beer & Bow Ties takes place Friday, September 14, at The Orlo at 315 S Plant Avenue in Tampa, starting at 6 p.m.
More information on Beer and Bow Ties can be found here.