By Melanie Haiken, Forbes
Almost once an hour – every 65 minutes to be precise – a military veteran commits suicide, says a new investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. By far the most extensive study of veteran suicides ever conducted, the report, issued Friday, examined suicide data from 1999 to 2010.
The data was then compared with a previous investigation – primarily an estimation – that had been conducted over the same time period, and had found a suicide rate of 18 per day.
Many of these suicides involve older veterans; 69 percent of the suicides recorded were by veterans age 50 and older. But another way to look at this is that 31 percent of these suicides were by veterans 49 and younger. In other words,by men in the prime of life.
And then there are the shockingly common active duty suicides. Just two weeks ago, the military released data showing that suicides among those on active duty hit a record high in 2012. There were 349 suicides among active duty personnel – almost one a day. That means there are now more suicides among active duty soldiers than there are combat deaths.
I’m not a statistician, but the information released about how the data were gathered suggests that these numbers may still be considerably underestimated. Suicides often go unreported as cause of death due to the stigma. And the data collected were from just 21 states, because these are the only states in which military status is listed on the death certificate. They were then extrapolated to apply to all 50 states.
Veteran Suicide, An Underreported Epidemic
Veteran suicide is not a new issue – the various branches of the military have been raising awareness and increasing proactive treatment programs for veteran suicide for the past couple of years. But that’s partly what makes the new reports so upsetting – they appear to show that veteran suicides remain undeterred by current efforts.The Department of Veterans Affairs has a new crisis line and website with multiple avenues, including text and online chat, for those contemplating suicide to reach out. The site also offers extensive information and resources for families and friends to help them spot the warning signs of depression and suicidal thinking and take action.
According to this week’s press release, the crisis line has already resulted in saving 26,000 veterans from suicide. That’s wonderful news – except that the fact that 26,000 vets are actively suicidal is deeply disturbing.
Read the complete article at Forbes HERE.
Originally published February 5, 2013.