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Report Shows Veteran Suicide Rates Are Astronomically High

by Countable | 9.21.17

What’s the story?

Last Friday the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published a press release concerning a new study of veterans’ suicide rates compared to the general population. The study reviewed records from 1979-2014 from all 50 states, and found the rate of suicide for veterans is much higher than for the civilian population, yet the study has gotten very little coverage from the wider media.

Why does it matter?

The current study, focusing on state by state data, is a follow up to an August 2016 report aggregating national veteran’s suicide statistics for 2001-2014. Here are some of the important, and alarming, details:

  • In 2014, an average of 20 veterans died by suicide each day.

  • In 2014, veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths by suicide among U.S. adults despite being only 8.5 percent of the U.S. adult population (ages 18 and older). In 2010, veterans accounted for 20.1 percent of all deaths by suicide and represented 9.6 percent of the U.S. adult population.

  • After adjusting for differences in age, risk for suicide was 22 percent higher among veterans compared with U.S. civilian adults. (2014)

  • After adjusting for differences in age and sex, risk for suicide was 19 percent higher among male veterans compared with U.S. civilian adult men. (2014)

  • After adjusting for differences in age and sex, risk for suicide was 2.5 times – that’s 250 percent – higher among female veterans compared with U.S. civilian adult women. (2014)

In Friday’s press release VA Secretary David Shulkin was quoted as saying that veteran suicide was a public health issue, and suicide prevention has become his primary clinical priority:

"These findings are deeply concerning, which is why I made suicide prevention my top clinical priority. I am committed to reducing Veteran suicides through support and education. We know that of the 20 suicides a day that we reported last year, 14 are not under VA care. This is a national public health issue that requires a concerted, national approach."

What do you think?

Should these reports, and the rates of suicide among veterans, be getting more attention from the public? Should Congress be prioritizing funds for programs attempting to prevent suicides among veterans? What about the incredibly high rate of suicide among female veterans compared to the civilian population? Should the VA be looking into that specifically?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: US Air Force / Creative Commons)

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