VA Report on Veteran Suicides reveals new Insights
September 18, 2017. Washington, DC. On Friday, the VA released the results of the largest study the agency has ever done on veteran suicides. Some of the changes versus past VA reports on the subject include data for all veterans not just those enrolled in VA programs, data broken out by state, and the effect of opioid painkillers on suicide rates. The new information sheds new light on the tragic epidemic of veteran suicides in the United States.
In 2000, the VA reported that 16 veterans were committing suicide every single day in America. Two years later, they increased that number to 18 per day. Three years later, that number increased again to 20 per day. By 2012, the number of veteran suicides had grown to 22 per day. But many veterans advocates insisted that number was actually 35 per day because the VA only counted vets enrolled in VA programs. For the first time, the latest VA report on the subject includes all known veterans.
Twice as likely
If there is a trend the study reveals, it is that there are a host of factors that each make the average US military veteran twice as likely to commit suicide as the rest of the veteran community. For example:
Vets over age 50 accounted for twice as many suicides as all other age ranges combined.
While male veterans are only 19 percent more likely to commit suicide than non-veteran men, female veterans are 250 percent more likely to commit suicide than non-veteran women.
Vets who take prescription opioid painkillers are twice as likely to commit suicide as those that don’t.
Veterans who commit suicide use a firearm twice as often as all other methods combined.
Vets who live in the Western third of the United States are twice as likely to commit suicide as those living in the rest of the US.
Veterans who are not enrolled in any VA services are twice as likely to commit suicide than vets who are enrolled in the VA.
Past reports have consistently confirmed that two-thirds of all veteran suicides are carried out by the oldest vets (age 50 and over). But this latest report from the VA reveals that it’s the youngest military veterans (age 18 to 29) that have the highest suicide rate. In 2001, the nation’s youngest veterans had the lowest suicide rate.
The four states with the highest veteran suicide rate were Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico. The rates in those states were above 60 per 100,000. In the Western one-third of the country, the veteran suicide rate was 45 per 100,000. The national average for veterans was 38 per 100,000.
The report’s authors suggest the reason the rate is so much higher in the West, especially those four states, is because VA facilities in those states are so far apart. They explain, many vets in those states must travel over 70 miles to get to their nearest VA office. And according to other portions of the study, veterans not enrolled in a single VA program are twice as likely to commit suicide.
Words from the VA Secretary
The latest report from the VA includes a promise from the VA Secretary, as well as instructions for veterans in crisis who need help.
“These findings are deeply concerning, which is why I made suicide prevention my top clinical priority,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin, “I am committed to reducing Veteran suicides through support and education. We know that of the 20 suicides a day that we reported last year, 14 are not under VA care. This is a national public health issue that requires a concerted, national approach.”
Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis, can call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1. Chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255.
View the full VA report here.
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