By Debbie Gregory
By now, most Americans have heard the VA’s statistic that claims 22 Veterans commit suicide every day. Using this data, we can deduce that approximately 8,030 U.S. military Veterans take their own lives. To put these numbers into perspective, as of May 9, 2014, the U.S has lost 6,790 service members in combat since September 11, 2001.
It is unacceptable that the greatest country in the world should lose more Veterans to suicide each year than have been lost in battle over a series of wars, lasting more than twelve years. Steps need to be taken to ensure that we, as a nation, have the backs of the men and women who stood up for us through military service.
The VA contends that almost 70% of Veteran suicides occur in Veterans who are 50 years of age or older. This means that more than 5,500 of the 8,030 Veteran suicides are coming from Veterans of generations who preceded the Global War on Terrorism.
Historically, Vietnam Veterans have had higher suicide rates than other generations of Veterans. The elevated numbers can be due to the emotional suffering they endured due to civilian protests against the war they fought in. The VA estimates that 30% of Vietnam Veterans suffer from PTSD, compared to 20% or fewer among the GWOT era Veterans.
Unfortunately for Vietnam Veterans, widespread public awareness and acknowledgement of PTSD didn’t come about until recently. Many of them struggled with PTSD as they transitioned and built civilian lives. As these Veterans grow older, they are having a harder time coping with their still untreated PTSD.
Veterans of all generations should be made aware of the warning signs of suicide. These include withdrawing from family and close friends, increased substance abuse, stated feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, rage, anxiousness, mood swings, insomnia, and mentioning thoughts of suicide, even jokingly.
Fellow Veterans, family members, friends and caretakers of Veterans who witness these behaviors should research the Veterans Crisis Line website or call 1 (800) 273- 8255. Veterans can also chat confidentially on the website, or text the number: 838255. Veterans should seek help in any way that they can, and concerned friends and family should persuade their Veteran to get help. But in emergency situations, please utilize 911 or your local emergency number.
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Military Connection: Veteran Suicide Truth: By Debbie Gregory