Memorial Day honors those who died in military service. However, high suicide rates among military veterans show their biggest battle often happens once they’re home.
The findings from a recent Veterans Affairs (VA) National Suicide Data Report are alarming. The risk for suicide is 22% higher among veterans compared to non-veterans. It's also 2.5 times higher for veteran women compared to non-veteran women.
This risk also increases with age. In 2016, veterans over age 75 totaled 33% of U.S. suicide deaths in this age bracket. More than 65% of all veterans who died of suicide in 2014 were age 50 or older.
A Medical Crisis
Both the military and VA struggle with finding trained counselors and medical staff. Many veterans face long wait times and often see their VA-appointed psychiatrist just three times per year. A Government Accountability Office report states that active duty troops wait 400 days on average for evaluations.
“We know that of the 20 suicides a day that we reported last year, 14 are not under VA care,” said former VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin, “This is a national public health issue that requires a concerted, national approach.”
The VA has expanded their programs so veterans can receive care outside of a VA clinic. However, VA findings show there is often “fragmented communication” between VA providers and non-VA providers. This means “non-VA providers don't consistently have access to critical health care information regarding veterans they are treating.”
Substance abuse is also a major issue. A recent VA report states that 19% of veterans pursuing mental health treatment also abuse at least one substance.
Warning Signs For Suicide
If you or a loved one exhibit any of these warning signs, seek immediate medical attention.
- Intense feelings of hopelessness
- Feeling like there’s no reason to live
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- Frequent discussions about death or suicide
- Self-destructive behavior such as drug misuse
How You Can Help
If you’re a veteran seeking help, visit Make The Connection to find resources and treatment services.
To volunteer your time, visit VA Voluntary Service and learn how to get involved.
Lazarus Naturals supports Mission 22, a non-profit that combats the veteran suicide epidemic. Their work includes treatment programs, memorials and national awareness. Click here to donate or volunteer.