Posted: Aug 27, 2013 5:33 PM by Melissa Anderson - MTN News
Updated: Aug 27, 2013 5:33 PM
HELENA - A man who committed suicide at the VA Hospital at Fort Harrison on Monday has been identified as a 62-year old veteran who was living in Townsend.
The man's name is not being publicly released.
The man shot himself in a public restroom at the facility, and the incident is raising questions over how he managed to bring a gun onto the federally-protected campus grounds.
According to Lewis & Clark County Coroner Mickey Nelson, the veteran walked through the doors at noon on Monday and headed to the public restroom around the corner.
A single gunshot rang out as the veteran used a custom-made shotgun to end his life.
Nelson noted, "Of course it was very disruptive for all the employees and emergency responders to deal with this as it was a shotgun that was used in taking of his life."
"It's shocking when it happens. It's not something that anyone was expecting or wanted have happen," said VA Montana behavioral health chief Christine Childers.
Nelson said the 62-year-old man was a patient at the hospital, and that last week, the man had been seen at the facility and was struggling with PTSD.
Although the VA can't comment on this particular veteran, they did speak about the impacts of suicidal thoughts.
"People that are most in need of help, don't ask for it. They are often the ones that are hardest to reach out to.They may rebuff you if you offer," said Childers.
The VA policy is that no weapons be brought onto the federally-run campus grounds. If they are, they are usually checked by security for holding at the door.
But this incident brings into question whether the policy should be changed to avoid future potential safety concerns.
"We don't expect that this is going to happen in Montana. So it really takes a shift of thinking and to say, are we safe, are we not safe, what do we need to look at here? Because we need to be safe It needs to be a safe environment," said Childers.
The VA says it will review the policy and determine if changes need to be made to avoid potential safety issues in the future.
In addition to help offered to responders by the VA internally, the Lewis & Clark County Sheriff's office will offer a critical incident stress debriefing as a result of the incident.
The VA offers a 24-hour veteran crisis hotline at 800-273-8255.