March 22, 2017
Data released by the VA in 2015 stated that an average of 7,300 veterans commit suicide every year. That is 608 veterans dying by their own hand in a month, or 20 in a day or almost 1 veteran taking their life every hour.
This data contradicts the popular number of 22 veterans dying by suicide on a daily basis. But still, twenty is too high a number. And this number has not changed in years! In 1999, the VA reported 20 veteran suicides a day and more than one and a half decades later, they report the same number despite there being 5 million less veterans now since 1999.
Many veterans are burdened with mental health issues and the “shame” associated to PTSD in the military so instead of seeking help or speaking out, they turn inward until the suffering becomes so unbearable that the only way out they see is taking their own life.
FACTS ABOUT VETERAN SUICIDE
Even in the military, suicide is a problem. In 2012, the number of deaths by suicide in the military exceeded the number of combat related deaths. Current data shows that we lose 1 active duty soldier to suicide every day. About 52% of military suicides are by those who were not deployed to combat zone, 34% were by those who were deployed but had non-combat roles and the rest were combat veterans. A study conducted by the Army revealed that being deployed increased the risk of suicide for women. In the same study, it was also found that demotion plays a role in increasing suicide risk. An analysis of military suicides conducted in 2011 found that divorced service members had a 55% higher rate of suicide than their married peers.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
Why is there such an epidemic of suicide among our veterans and active-duty soldiers?
The VA has admitted that providing help and support to veterans who are suicidal is very difficult, partly because of insufficient data on the scope of the problem. The lack of data may be attributed in part to warriors not actively seeking help and speaking out.
But YOU can do something. The first step you can take is to be there.
If you know someone who is entertaining suicidal thoughts or who is considering taking their own life, do not leave them alone. Ask them directly if they are contemplating suicide.
There are warning signs that can tell you if someone is having suicidal thoughts:
It is important that you stay calm when caring for a loved one who is thinking about suicide. Do not use force but remove any objects, like firearms, that can pose a danger to him or her. Keep in mind that your loved one is suffering great emotional pain and it is helpful to remain non-judgmental as you listen. Take him or her seriously when they give details about how, where and when they may be planning to commit suicide. Do not keep the information secret; instead call 911 or the VA military crisis line at once at 800-273-8255 (press 1 to speak with a trained professional). Do not worry that the person in need would get angry at you, the most important thing is to take action immediately and get the help the veteran wanted. Stay until the veteran receives help.
You may also escort your loved one to a health professional to get help. By adopting an attitude that you want to help, you may save a veteran’s life. Let us all work at lowering that number down to zero.
RAISE AWARENESS, THEN TAKE ACTION
Raising awareness is a first step to putting the epidemic of veteran suicide in the limelight. There are various ways people raised awareness to veteran suicide including the popular 22 push-ups for 22 days and purchasing gear with “22 veteran suicide a day” information on them. But after the push-ups are done and the t-shirts are worn, what’s next?
When a person takes his or her life, they leave behind their spouses, their children, their friends. They leave behind the people who love them in misery and pain that don't go away with the passing of time. Every veteran or soldier suicide is a great tragedy.
If you have a veteran or military friend, family or relative, always make it a point to check on them. It won’t take a lot out of your day to make a few minutes call and say hello. It could mean a lot to the veteran to know that someone’s there, that someone cares.
Volunteer at veteran assistance groups and really make a difference. Donate at a charity organization that focuses on improving the lives of veterans and their families.
Awareness without action, is no help.
HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR PREVENTING VETERAN SUICIDE
Veterans Affairs VA’s Crisis Line number: 1-800-273-8255 (Press “1” for Veteran services) Veterans Chat: www.VeteransCrisisLine.net Veterans Text: available at 838255
Objective Zero. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, The Objective Zero™ Foundation anonymously connects veterans in-need to suicide prevention resources and a support community of veterans, counselors, and concerned citizens via a mobile app.
Mission 22. Elder Heart is the 501C3 behind Mission 22. It is comprised of 3 Special Forces operators who, because of their personal battles with PTSD and TBI, have made it their mission to raise awareness, enlist support, and end veteran suicide in America.
Stop Soldier Suicide. Their vision: An established, comprehensive, trusted network of individuals, resources and solutions responsive to the complex needs of Veterans from any generation, capable of anticipating and mitigating suicide risk factors, and able to promote resilience, inspire hope, and encourage personal growth and empowerment for our Veterans and their Families.
Save 22. Established by a group of like-minded veteran friends working to raise awareness for the prevention of veteran and active-duty suicides.
The Suicide Prevention App.
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