A 62-year-old man committed suicide Monday at the Veterans Affairs hospital campus at Fort Harrison.
“We did have a death here on campus,” VA Montana spokeswoman Terrie Casey said. “Obviously we’re saddened and concerned about the event.”
She said the deceased man was a veteran. She did not immediately know whether he was a patient receiving care at the facility.
Lewis and Clark County Coroner M.E. “Mickey” Nelson confirmed that the man died from a single gunshot wound in a restroom with the door closed. It was reported at about 12:30 p.m.
VA police and Lewis and Clark sheriff’s deputies participated in the investigation.
Nelson said it’s the first shooting death he recalls at either of the Helena-area hospitals in his approximately three decades as coroner.
Firearms are prohibited on VA campuses, including in vehicles, Casey said.
As many as 6,500 veterans commit suicide each year, according to a 2012 VA report. Veterans account for more than 20 percent of all suicides in the nation.
The VA has worked to improve veterans’ access to mental health treatment. At Fort Harrison, a new 24-bed mental health unit was completed in 2011, with eight beds each for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and acute mental health issues.
Casey said programs are in place for veterans dealing with crisis. If veterans are uncomfortable with contacting their local VA, they can call the national Veteran Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255, and press 1.
This story has been corrected in the first graph with the proper name of Veteran's Affairs.