Health

Devastating Veteran Suicide Numbers: 1 Every 72 Minutes

| by Ray Brown
A veteran crouches down with his head in his handsA veteran crouches down with his head in his hands

A U.S. veteran commits suicide every 72 minutes and not enough is being done about it, according to the USA Today editorial board.

In July, the Department of Veterans Affairs released a study that highlighted several alarming statistics. In addition to 20 veteran suicides per day, the study found that in 2014, veterans accounted for 18 percent of all suicide deaths among U.S. adults, while constituting only 8.5 percent of the U.S. population.

And it's not just young men and women coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans aged 50 and up, many of whom fought in Vietnam and possibly Korea, made up 65 percent of ex-military suicides in 2014.

Women veterans are also highly affected. Adjusting for differences in age, “risk for suicide was 2.4 times higher among female Veterans when compared to U.S. civilian adult females,” the study found.

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On Sept. 15, the USA Today editorial board blamed the VA for the sobering numbers and said its “mammoth bureaucracy ... has been slow to embrace new ideas, chief among them managing the urge to commit suicide and not just treating underlying illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder or severe depression.”

Solutions for helping at-risk veterans are "not meeting the demand," said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, according to USA Today. "We often compare it to the early days of the AIDS crisis, when the gay community especially felt like their friends were dying left and right, and people weren't paying attention."

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was recently asked about veteran suicide rates during a town hall forum.

"A lot of it is they're killing themselves over the fact that they can't -- they're under tremendous pain and they can't see a doctor," Trump said, according to The Hill. "We're going to speed up the process. We're going to create a big mental health division. They need help. They need help. They need tremendous help, and we're doing nothing for them. The VA is really almost ... a corrupt enterprise.”

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign website outlines ideas for how to deal with the epidemic.

“On the issue of veterans suicide, Clinton promises increased funding for VA mental health staffing and training, expansion of department counseling programs and promotion of ‘better prescriber and treatment practices’ that offer more alternatives than medication,” the campaign website says.

Sources: USA Today, Department of Veterans Affairs, The Hill, Hillary Clinton.com / Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook via Task & Purpose

Will veteran suicide numbers decrease?
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