Suicide prevention pins are displayed in recognition of suicide prevention and awareness month by the 81st Medical Operations Squadron mental health team. (U.S. Air Force photo / Kemberly Groue)

I've been thinking a lot about suicide lately. No, that's not a suicidal ideation, it's just what I've been thinking about. One of my good friends, the last person I ever thought would fall victim to the scourge of suicide, killed himself. The one guy I knew, who would have stayed up for days to talk someone else out of suicide, ended up doing it himself.

I can't figure it out. Any one of the dozens of people he had helped over the years would have come to his aid if only he had asked. But he didn't.

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The Carl Vinson VA Medical Center iin Dublin, Georgia

Olen Hancock, whose life had faded in many ways, shot himself outside the entrance of a Veterans Affairs hospital in Decatur earlier this month. He was 68.

A day earlier, Steven Pressley, after years of chronic pain, shot himself in the parking lot of a VA hospital in Dublin. He was 28.

At least 22 military veterans committed suicide at VA centers in the U.S. in the last 18 months, including a Texas man who shot himself this month in the waiting room of a VA clinic.

Veteran suicide is an acute crisis wrapped in a national crisis. Between 2005 and 2016, suicide rates in the general population climbed 21%. For veterans, already taking their lives at twice the U.S. rate, it climbed 26%. More than 6,000 veterans are dying by their own hands each year – nearly 20 a day.

The latest deaths renew questions about whether the VA, criticized and investigated for failing to provide timely or sufficient help to veterans, is doing enough to solve the problem. That is despite making suicide prevention a high priority in recent years.

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Veterans Affairs Austin Outpatient Clinic/VA

On Tuesday, a veteran patient at a Veterans Affairs clinic in Austin Texas, reportedly shot and killed himself in the waiting room in front of "hundreds" of people.

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Army Maj. D.J. Skelton/Facebook

From an update from Army Maj. D.J. Skelton: “Over 1,000 veterans (that have served a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan) have e-mailed me since Tom Ricks posted my FB article on his blog last Nov. stating that the only time they ever felt like committing suicide was from the stress of going through a medical board or the process of transition out of the military.”

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Flickr/Morgan Page

Veterans who are married or in a live-in relationship have a higher risk of suicide than their single counterparts, according to a new study from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of Connecticut.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo

Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published on NYC Veterans Alliance’s blog.

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