SANFORD – In 2016, 29 Maine veterans died as a result of suicide, according to the Veterans Administration.

The 2016 figure, the most recent available,  is down considerably from the 47 veterans  suicides in Maine in 2015, and the 55 Maine veterans who took their lives in 2014.

Everyone wants the number reduced to zero – in Maine and across the nation.

One way to help veterans who may be struggling, organizers say, is a training program called Safetalk, designed to help loved ones find ways to talk to people who may be at risk, and what to look for when someone they love may be having problems.

Safetalk is set for for 4 to 6:30 p.m. on Monday at The Sanford Vets Center, 628 Main St. in Springvale. It is presented by Volunteers of America, and will bring together those from the Sanford Vet Center, Maine Military and Community Network and others.

The training is free to the community, said Jeanne Delahunt, one of the organizers. It is sponsored by the York County Veteran Suicide Prevention Task Force ,a sub-committee of the York County Maine Military and Community Network.

A similar program was conducted in Biddeford last year.

Sanford Vet Center director Amy Marcotte in a 2018 interview said the training will help people learn how to initiate a conversation to inquire about how someone is doing.

“The first thing we want to reinforce with folks is that they are the front line —  those who care about and love our veterans are the front line defense against suicide,” said Marcotte. “Their part is opening the conversation, bringing the suicidal thoughts into the light.”

She said those who attend the session will learn how to recognize the need for concern, how to communicate effectively, offer support and provide information on how to get help.

To register for the free Safetalk training, folks may call 490-1513.

Veterans who feel they need to talk to someone now may call the national Veterans Crisis Line toll free at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. More information about this service is online at: www.veteranscrisisline.net.

Veterans may also call the Sanford Vet Center at 490-1513 on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. — during off hours, the number reaches the Vet Center Combat Call Center — which may also be reached directly toll-free at 877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).

Maine’s Statewide Crisis line is: 1-888-568-1112.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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