Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Alarming VA report reveals 60,000 veterans committed suicide over recent decade
The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.
Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.
The report did not take into account the possible effects of VA's programs aimed at outreach and removing the stigma of seeking help for mental health. Overall, though, the data show the suicide rate is increasing.
In 2017, more than 6,100 veterans died by suicide, an increase of 2% over 2016 and a total increase of 6% since 2008, the report found.
Firearms were the method of suicide in 70.7% of male veteran suicide deaths and 43.2% of female veteran suicide deaths in 2017, the report found.
Of particular concern was the suicide rate among former National Guard and Reserve members who were never federally activated and therefore, did not receive VA services. Within that population, there were 919 suicides in 2017, an average of 2.5 per day, the report said. Some 12.4% of all military suicides in 2017 were among this population, the report found.
Overall in 2017, the suicide rate for veterans was 1.5 times the rate for non-veteran adults, after adjusting for population differences in age and sex, the report said.
The report and an accompanying statement by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie emphasized that the veteran suicide crisis went beyond the VA's capacity to address it, and must be targeted in a coordinated approach with local, state and private partners.
"VA is working to prevent suicide among all veterans, whether they are enrolled in VA health care or not," Wilkie said. "That's why the department has adopted a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention, using bundled strategies that cut across various sectors -- faith communities, employers, schools and health care organizations, for example -- to reach veterans where they live and thrive."
The new approach was meant "to reach all veterans, even those who do not and may never come to us for care," Wilkie said.
In his cover letter for the report, Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said of suicide prevention that "We cannot do this alone; we call on our community partners to join us in this effort."
"We will only be successful at preventing suicide if we break this work into actionable, manageable steps," Stone said.
The full report and the accompanying state data sheets are available here.
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press "1" to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
This article originally appeared on Military.com
More articles from Military.com:
A U.S. Army Stryker armored vehicle burst into flames on the side of a Polish roadway on Saturday, the Army confirmed on Monday.
A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.
The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.
Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.
"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Editor's Note: A version of this article originally appeared on the blog of Angry Staff Officer
This morning, the Virginia state capitol in Richmond saw dozens of armed men gathering to demonstrate their support for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution – the right to bear arms. These men were not merely bearing arms, however; they were fully accoutered in the trappings of what one would call a paramilitary group: helmets, vests, ammunition pouches, camouflage clothing, and other "tactical" necessities, the majority of which are neither tactical nor necessary. Their weapons, too, are bedecked with all sorts of accessories, and are also in the paramilitary lane. Rather than carry rifles or shotguns that one would use for hunting, they instead carry semi-automatic "military grade" weapons, to merely prove that they can.
This is not an uncommon sight in America. Nor has it ever been. Armed groups of angry men have a long and uncomfortable history in the United States. On very rare occasions, these irregulars have done some good against corrupt, power-hungry, and abusive county governments. For the most part, however, they bode no good.