There have been disturbing increases in the suicide rates across America. Since 1999, suicides have increased over 30% in half of states, some of them all the way up to 58%. On top of that, the CDC found that 54% of those cases had no known mental health conditions.
Among the rapid increase of American suicides, veteran suicides have also been on the rise. The VA has been working on their suicide data report, and have just recently updated their numbers and insights. The data spans from 2005 to 2015, and “is part of VA’s ongoing examination of more than 55 million civilian and Veteran death records that is being used to evaluate and improve VA’s Suicide Prevention Program.”
The analysis and complexity of the numbers means that 2015 is the most current year they can offer, and as time goes on we will see updated numbers in regards to more recent years. This delay means that if new policies are instated, the VA will likely not know how effective these policies really are until several years later. The is in contrast to the CDC report which was published in June of 2018, regarding American suicide numbers in 2017.
Some of the key takeaways from the report:
- It was confirmed that veteran suicides are still on the rise, averaging 20.6 a day.
- With adults, the rate of suicide is 2.1 times higher in veterans than non-veterans.
- The suicide rate of those who do not use VA health services is rapidly increasing.
- “In 2005, Veterans accounted for 11.3 percent of the U.S. adult population and 18.3 percent of all suicides among U.S. adults.”
As the VA attempts to develop systems to combat the rising number of veteran suicides, they are consistently going through major changes that affect the entire organization’s effectiveness. They have not had a permanent Secretary of Veterans Affairs since David Shulkin’s dismissal in March, and since then President Trump has nominated Dr. Ronny Jackson, who eventually declined, and now has nominated Robert Wilkie — who had served as the acting Secretary for a while. Now the acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs is Peter O’Rourke, who has held the position since May 29.
They have also been combating corruption and logistical bureaucratic problems, and the latter is no doubt exacerbated by the prior. The VA has been especially vulnerable in their system of bidding for contracts — huge amounts of money has been scammed by mid to high level VA employees who award contracts to personal connections in exchange for kickbacks. Whistleblowers are silenced, and the cycle continues.
These problems all complicate and directly work against the VA’s mission — to help veterans. As the rates of veteran suicide increases, the VA bureaucracy continues to bog itself down in these areas. Thankfully, veteran communities can meet each other on the ground and watch each other’s backs to the best of their ability. Don’t wait until it’s too late to approach someone with a helping hand, and if the person in need is you, don’t be afraid to reach out. The VA may have its issues, but they also have many employees that want to give back to our nation’s veterans and who will help those in need wherever they can.
Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis, should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or send a text message to 838255.”
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.