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Addressing Suicide Rates Among Veterans

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began an intensive effort to reduce the veteran suicide rate. Historically, this demographic has suffered from a higher rate of suicide than the general public and the most recent report states that it is only climbing.

In an effort to reduce the number of veterans who choose to end their lives, the VA increased mental health staffing and established the VA’s Mental Health Services to create suicide surveillance criteria and clinical support. New prevention measures are being rolled out to try and curb the growing epidemic among the nation’s protective forces.

Young Veteran Suicide Rate on the Rise

According to figures released by the VA on January 9, 2014, the number of male veterans under the age of 30 who commit suicide jumped by 44 percent between 2009 and 2011, the most recent years for which data was available. Suicide rates for female veterans rose 11 percent for the same time frame. Roughly 22 veterans commit suicide every day – nearly one per hour. “Their rates are astronomically high and climbing,” said Jan Kemp, VA’s National Mental Health Director for Suicide Prevention, reported in Stars and Stripes. “That’s concerning to us.”

The reason for the troubling spike in self-inflicted deaths among veterans is unclear. While the suicide rate among older veterans saw a slight decrease, younger vets are taking their own life at a faster pace. About two young veterans commit suicide each day, usually within a few years of leaving the military.

Yet there is good news included in the report; the addition of more expansive mental health programs has decreased the suicide rate among veterans who seek care within the VA health system. Of the recorded 22 deaths a day, only about five are patients within the VA system. This indicates the importance of the program but also highlights the challenge of expanding outreach and persuading veterans to seek care, especially younger men and women.

While veterans do have a substantially higher rate of suicide than the national average, the report does note that national suicide rates have increased slightly in the last decade. Suicide is an epidemic growing among every demographic – not simply a veteran issue.

Help is Available for Veterans

If you or a loved one is contemplating suicide, please seek the immediate care of a doctor or mental health professional. The Veterans Crisis Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at (800)-273-8255, press 1. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also always available at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

In the unfortunate circumstance that a loved one decides to end his or her life, compassionate and professional suicide cleanup may be necessary. In a time of crisis, the professionals at Aftermath lift the burden of responsibility concerning proper cleanup procedures.

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