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Why are veterans dying by suicide?

Programs offer help and hope

While anyone can experience suicide risks, certain groups have substantially higher rates of suicide than the general U.S. population the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on June 15, 2022.

Veterans bear a disproportionate — but preventable burden.

Tragically, out of the 130 suicides per day in 2019, 17 of those lives lost were veterans. In 2019, among the average 17.2 Veteran suicides per day, an estimated 6.8 suicides per day were among those with VHA encounters in 2018 or 2019, whereas 10.4 per day were among Veterans with no VHA encounter in 2018 or 2019.

Veteran suicide-related deaths are also increasing at a greater rate than that of the general U.S. population.

From 2001 to 2019, the rate of suicide among Veterans increased nearly 36% relative to an increase of 30% in the general population. Statistics address many issues, but fail to answer the most important question: Why are veterans dying by suicide?

A Sept. 7, 2021 article published on the Heroes’ Mile website, “Suicide Awareness Month: Looking at Veteran Suicides per Day,” stated there are countless factors that contribute to the increasing military suicide rate.

Things like combat exposure, injury, struggling to return to civilian life, and military sexual trauma all add to the risk of self-harm and committing suicide.

For many people, this leads to coping with drugs or alcohol, which only increases veteran suicide risk, according to a Sept. 7, 2021 post on the Heroes’ Mile website.

Heroes’ Mile is a substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and military sexual trauma (MST) center designed for military service veterans who are experiencing problems with addiction and other invisible wounds of war.

Substance abuse is deeply connected to higher suicide rates and is one of the major causes of veteran suicides, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) the report stated. Substance use and concurrent disorders (i.e., mental health and addiction issues that develop together) are particularly common struggles for veterans, and these can be deadly when left untreated. Among those is PTSD.

Typically, veterans develop PTSD after going through a traumatic experience, which can include witnessing injury or death, getting in an accident, being exposed to combat, etc. Heroes’ Mile reported in a 2020 article titled Supoorting Veterans: Know the Warning Signs of PTSD and Addiction. They might then turn to drugs or alcohol to mask their emotional, mental, and physical pain.

A large portion of veterans experience all of these difficulties, and more, as a result of the nature of their careers. In the course of their military service, veterans sacrifice their own freedoms and well-being in order to better serve their country. Even after separating from the service, many veterans find themselves struggling to find motivation and purpose in their lives. This is exactly why having resources in place for veterans to seek preventative and active mental health care is so essential in lowering the veteran suicides per day rate.

For information on Veteran suicide prevention:

• Dial 988, then press 1 (the Veterans Crisis Line is a confidential, secure resource. The caller chooses to share personal information).

• Also visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website at https://www.va.gov/health-care/health-needs-conditions/mental-health/suicide-prevention/

• Local VA resources include the Hancock VA Clinic, located at 787 Market Street, Suite 9, Hancock. The phone number is 800-215 8262.

• National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention offers and extensive list of veterans and military suicide prevention resources at: https://theactionalliance.org/veteran-and-military-suicide-prevention-resources

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