This week I would like to discuss Veteran Suicide. I know this is a sensitive subject that nobody wants to discuss, but if we do not act as a society, it will only get worse. We need to stay informed on this issue to help each other and look out for each other. According to the Military Times (2018), the suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times higher than for American civilians who have never served in the military. About 20 veterans a day take their own lives, accounting for 14 percent of all adult suicide deaths in the U.S. in 2016, even though only 8 percent of the country’s population has served in the military. Suicide has been deemed the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and Veteran suicide is a national concern. Here are some interesting facts about suicide from a recent VA National Suicide Data study (2018);
• There were more than 6,000 Veteran suicides each year from 2008 to 2016.
• From 2005 to 2016, Veteran and non-Veteran adult suicide rates increased 25.9 percent and 20.6 percent, respectively. From 2015 to 2016, Veteran suicide rates decreased from 30.5 per 100,000 population to 30.1 per 100,000 population.
• In 2016, the suicide rate was 1.5 times greater for Veterans than for non-Veteran adults, after adjusting for age and gender.
• In 2016, 69.4 percent of Veteran suicides resulted from a firearm injury. In comparison, among U.S. non-Veteran adults, 48.4 percent of suicides resulted from a firearm injury in 2016.
• The suicide rates for Veterans ages 35–54, 55–74, and 75 and older did not increase from 2015 to 2016.
• The suicide rate for Veterans ages 18–34 increased substantially, from 40.4 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2015 to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2016.
• Considering unadjusted and age-adjusted suicide rates for 2016, Veterans recently using VHA services had higher rates of suicide than Veterans who did not recently use VHA, Veterans overall, and non-Veterans. This is similar to the information presented in the previous report and is consistent with findings reported elsewhere. Veterans who use VHA have physical and mental health care needs and are actively seeking care because those conditions are disrupting their lives. Many of these conditions — such as mental health challenges, substance use disorders, chronic medical conditions, and chronic pain — are associated with an increased risk of suicide.
• From 2005 to 2016, there was a lower increase in the suicide rate among Veterans in VHA care (13.7 percent) than among Veterans who were not in VHA care (26.0 percent).
• After adjusting for age, in 2016, the suicide rate for women Veterans was 1.8 times greater than the suicide rate for non-Veteran women.
• The number of suicides among never federally activated National Guard and Reserve former Service members increased from 2005 to 2015. (Veterans Affairs, 2018)
People who consider suicide have difficulties they think they can never overcome. They believe that no one can help them and that suicide is their only option and way out. People who are considering suicide may feel the following:
• Helpless, there is nothing they can do to improve things
• Hopeless, their problem cannot be solved by them or anyone else
• Worthless, feeling like a failure and unable to help themselves
• Hateful toward others and themselves
• Feel like a burden to others
• Living is too much of a burden
Some Veterans’ pain results from traumatic events like witnessing death, sexual assault, or abuse. Other Veterans’ difficulties can result from setbacks of separations, divorce, losing jobs, or being betrayed. Some people consider suicide due to stress, depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress that makes life feel no longer bearable. Medical conditions such as depression, posttraumatic stress, and chronic pain may lead to thoughts of suicide. There are effective treatments and resources for each of these conditions.
No matter what the reason, people don't attempt suicide because they want to die, but they see suicide as a way to escape the pain of suffering living. They must realize that there are many ways to handle these problems — even if they can’t see the immediate solution. Sometimes an outside perspective needs to be presented to see new answers to their personal issues.
So, you are probably wondering where I am going with all of this information. The topic of Veteran Suicide is something that gets swept under the rug and ignored. We need to get it out in the open and talk about it, educate others, and look for the sign in our comrades to ensure it does not haunt their lives. I am sure we know someone this has affected. We do not need this disease to ruin any more of our lives or our comrades’ lives.
If you or you know someone experiencing any of these thoughts or actions, you should seek immediate support. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat, or send a text message to the Veterans Crisis Line at 838255. The Veterans Crisis Line provides free, confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. If you feel there is a crisis, whether or not you're thinking about killing yourself, you can also contact the Veterans Crisis Line. It is better to call sooner, rather than wait for problems to get worse.
Please take care of yourself, look out for your comrades, and I hope you can use and enjoy the information.
Shane, T. (2018). A: Suicide rate for younger veterans increased by more than 10 percent. Military Times. Retrieved from https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2018/09/26/suicide-rate-spikes-among-younger-veterans/
Veterans Affairs (2018). VA National Suicide Data Report 2005-2016. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/data-sheets/OMHSP_National_Suicide_Data_Report_2005-2016_508.pdf
Image provided by Wentling, N. (2018). VA reveals its veteran suicide statistic included active-duty troops. Stripes.com. Retrieved from https://www.stripes.com/news/us/va-reveals-its-veteran-suicide-statistic-included-active-duty-troops-1.533992