The Wall Street Journal has released an article about a VA National Suicide Data Report that concluded the rise in suicides among young veterans has continued to climb even though the Department of Veteran Affairs has taken action to stop it.

Overall veteran suicides has gone down, though.

From The Wall Street Journal:

For the age group 18 to 34, suicide rates have been rising for the past decade, but jumped in the most recent report to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2016 from 40.4 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2015, the most-recent statistics available.

“These findings underscore the fact that suicide is a national public health issue that affects communities everywhere,” the VA says in a press release reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Our goal is to prevent suicide among all Veterans—even those who do not and may never seek care within VA’s system.”

According to the report, veterans accounted for 14% of suicides nationwide though they make up only 8% of the U.S. population. The suicide rate for female veterans is 1.8 times higher than their civilian counterparts.

There are some 20 million veterans in the U.S.

The overall number of veteran suicides changed little falling to 6,079 in 2016 from 6,281 the year prior, while the overall rate essentially held steady in part because suicides among veterans older than 55 fell while the youngest cohort of veterans saw increased numbers. The oldest age group had the largest number of overall deaths because they make up the largest portion of the veteran population.

This is another reason why our VA system needs a complete overhaul. We’ve documented the numerous problems at VA hospitals across the country. In 2017, the inspector general report found “that the department’s suicide hotline had been routing a high percentage of calls to backup call centers, a flaw the department has said has been resolved.”

A recent report highlighted a case in Minnesota when a hospital “didn’t manage follow-up care for a veteran who recently had been admitted to the hospital for suicidal thoughts. He killed himself less than 24 hours after his release from the hospital.”

WSJ added a few other points from this report:

• Some 70% of veterans who killed themselves used a firearm compared with less than 50% for civilians.

• Veterans who had been part of the National Guard or a military reserve unit but who had never been called up for federal service saw rates of suicide rise which, the VA said, could be due in part to those troops having fewer veterans benefits and access to VA care than active-duty troops. The VA said it plans to increase in coming years its suicide prevention efforts among this sometimes-neglected group.

I found an article from May 2018 that in Oklahoma, the state I live in, veterans have the highest suicide rate in the nation. This may change since the report came out in 2016, but it examined data from 1979 to 2014 across all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

How did this happen? From NewsOK:

Added to those struggles is the lack of adequate mental health care in the state. Oklahoma posts some of the nation’s highest suicide rates among veterans and nonveterans alike, and mental health providers estimate that they’re only able to serve about one out of every three people who need help. That lack of access to treatment is one of the key drivers of the state’s high rate of suicides, White said.

During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the state’s mental health department received $500,000 in state funds for suicide prevention. The appropriation marked the state’s first investment in suicide prevention, and White said the department used that funding for evidence-based suicide prevention programs.

But until April, when lawmakers approved an $11 million increase in the department’s budget for next year, the department had seen its state budget slashed $52.6 million, and it has lost another $80.4 million in federal matching funds. Those cuts forced the department to cut back on its mental health treatment services, White said.

The Angels in Disguise Program raises awareness on veteran suicides and wants to raise money for a prevention program.

*If you or you know someone who is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255


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