Largest study of veteran suicide reveals more precise information

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The Department of Veterans Affairs released analysis of the most comprehensive research of veteran suicide rates in the U.S., examining over 55 million Veteran records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation. The effort extends VA’s knowledge from the previous report issued in 2010, which examined three million veteran records from 20 states.  Based on the data from 2010, VA estimated the number of veteran deaths by suicide averaged 22 per day.  The current analysis indicates that in 2014, an average of 20 veterans a day died from suicide.

“One veteran suicide is one too many, and this collaborative effort provides both updated and comprehensive data that allows us to make better informed decisions on how to prevent this national tragedy,” said VA Under Secretary for Health, Dr. David J. Shulkin. “We as a nation must focus on bringing the number of veteran suicides to zero.”

Together, the numbers point to a significant mental health risk for individuals who served in the military, though the specific reasons remain unclear. Researchers found that the risk of suicide for veterans is 21 percent higher when compared to civilian adults. From 2001 to 2014, as the civilian suicide rate rose about 23.3 percent, the rate of suicide among veterans jumped more than 32 percent.

The problem is particularly worrisome among female veterans, who saw their suicide rates rise more than 85 percent over that time, compared to about 40 percent for civilian women.

Particularly noteworthy, roughly 65 percent of all veteran suicides in 2014 were for individuals 50 years or older. These are deeply disturbing statistics, especially for our nation’s Vietnam veterans.

“What this new research tells us, is we need to continue to fight for proper physical and mental health care for all of our veterans from all generations” said DAV National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. “Twenty veterans a day is an incredibly troubling number. We cannot, and will not, stop pushing the VA and Congress to find solutions to this devastating epidemic.”

According to the new data, about 70 percent of veterans who took their own lives were not regular users of VA services.