Suicide Spike Hits Veterans
The suicide rate among veterans has increased by 35% since 2001. The sharp increase is among veterans who have served since 2001 with the rate among women increased by 85% in that same time span. The young veterans, age 18 to 29 had a suicide rate of 86 deaths per 100,000 for men and 33 deaths per 100,000 for women. For young men and women the rate is twice as high as the other age groups. As compared to the civilian death by suicide rate of 14 deaths per 100,000, the increase is extremely alarming. Since 2001 the civilian rate has increased by 23% which indicates the general increase in suicide in our country.
The Veterans Administration (VA) has increased their efforts to improve suicide prevention services and in identifying risks appearing in veterans through increases to mental health staff, expanding the suicide hotline services and programs which provide same-day treatment. But, many veterans return to their civilian lives and families in their home communities and are remote from accessing or wanting to use VA services. These individuals are among the highest risk. Mental health and substance abuse issues in these young veterans fuels the risk factors and increases the likelihood of suicidal thinking and behaviors developing. We cannot discount the possibility that a high percentage of the veterans in the risk group having undiagnosed Traumatic Brain Injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan due to exposure to battlefield explosions which increases the risk for suicide.
The VA is taking an active role in improving services, but we need to keep in mind the significance of the problem. Our goal is to prevent suicide among veterans through creating more options and avenues to mental health, substance abuse and brain injury services. This is an alarming problem which requires our full attention.