Veterans Suicide Rates…

This one is from the mil-email string… 

I would add that we have had a few discussions about this at work, and I agree with the comments below.  Another possible issue that I do not believe is being taken into account is the number of older veterans that have lost jobs in the past 5 years.  I think this is also a significant contributor to the rates.

Additionally, while not ‘suicides’ per se, I’ve had a couple of friends die in the last two years of natural causes who never sought treatment.  As a matter of fact, they didn’t even let folks know they were sick, and we only found out post mortem from letters left for the families.


Personal comments: 
1.       A vet giving his life in performance of service is unfortunately sometimes a part of that service, but his or her taking that life after performing service is more unfortunate in that it is a total loss, one without merit.

2.       Regarding the 5-year post-service period in the Vietnam War era versus now, the social environment in which returnee vets find themselves is totally different.  I find it interesting that the numbers of suicides are far higher now than then, “then” being a period of pure hostility and hatred toward vets on the part of a large segment of society.


New VA Study Reveals Insights About Veteran Suicides
A new study published the Department of Veterans’ Affairs says that roughly 22 military veterans kill themselves every day. That rate that is about 20 percent higher than the VA estimated in 2007. More than two-thirds of the veterans who commit suicide are 50 or older, suggesting that the increase in veterans’ suicides is not primarily driven by those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, the study does show that the overall veteran suicide rate is three times that of the civilian population as a whole. This is probably due to the fact that while women make up half of the civilian population, they are a very small percentage of the veteran population. Men tend to kill themselves at a much higher rate than women.
According to the Washington Post, the study’s author, Rober Bossarte, said “There is a perception that we have a veterans’ suicide epidemic on our hands. I don’t think that is true.” The VA epidemiologist went on to say that “The rate is going up in the country, and veterans are a part of it.” The number of suicides overall in the United States increased by nearly 11 percent between 2007 and 2010, the study says.
The study reached the conclusion that the percentage of veterans who die by suicide has decreased slightly since 1999, even though the total number of veterans who kill themselves has gone up.
Bossarte said much work remains to be done to understand the data. Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are a minority of the overall veteran population that includes Vietnam, Korea, and World War II vets, but recent studies have suggested that those who served in the more recent conflicts are 30 to 200 percent more likely to commit suicide than their ­non-veteran peers. According to the Washington Post, other studies have shown that Vietnam-era veterans were most likely to commit suicide within five years of getting out of the service. It remains to be seen if this is the case with newer veterans.
To calculate the veterans’ suicide rate, Bossarte and one assistant spent more than two years, starting in October 2010, asking state governments to turn over death certificates for the more than 400,000 Americans who have killed themselves since 1999. 42 states have provided data or agreed to do so; the study is based on information from 21 states that has been assembled into a database.
The numbers show that men in their 50s — a group that includes a large percentage of the veteran population— have been especially hard-hit by the national increase in suicide. The veterans’ suicide rate is about three times the overall national rate, but about the same percentage of male veterans in their 50s kill themselves as do non-veteran men of that age, according to the VA data.
Bossarte plans to include in death certificate data from all 50 states, Pentagon service records, VA hospital data and information from the VA’s crisis line in one database to help figure out the root causes of the suicide problem. Hopefully it will also be able to help the VA determine where it needs more mental healthcare workers and how best to train them.
The database is intended to show how many veterans served in combat, the year they left the military and the jobs they held in uniform. He will know how many of the deceased veterans called the crisis line for help and what kinds of treatment they were receiving from VA doctors before taking their lives.
Recently Bossarte noticed an interesting trend that followed the VA’s move to change the name of its call center from “suicide hotline” to “crisis line.” Overall call volume spiked in the months after the name change, and emergency rescues, which accounted for about 5 percent of all calls in 2010, dropped to less than 2 percent.
The figures suggest that more veterans are calling the line before their despair reaches suicidal levels. “We are getting them earlier, and that is a good thing,” Bossarte said.
Recently, national suicide rates have been shown to be highest in the rural Mountain West states. Epidemiologists have speculated that the availability of guns, the lack of mental health services and a rugged, independent mind-set that stigmatizes seeking help could all be driving up the rate. Bossarte’s database could help pinpoint the culprit and the cure.
TREA: The Enlisted Association is very supportive any effort to get at the root causes of suicide, since any loss of human life is a tragedy. Hopefully inquiries such as this will continue to show that military service does not increase the risk of suicide, and it will help our country deal with the real factors that drive suicides of both veterans and non-veterans.
If you or anybody you know needs help, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255  and Press 1 or go on line at

Bottom line, if you know a vet who’s in trouble, please talk to them and try to get them help.

h/t Les, Frito, Bubba


Veterans Suicide Rates… — 7 Comments

  1. Glad I could help with the Post.

    Bottom Line: We watched each other’s Backs while in Uniform, let’s keep it up even though we put them away.

    Lord Knows, with an Active Military/Guard/Reserve Force of about 1% of the Population, and Veterans making up about 5%, I don’t expect much help from the 90+% of the rest of the Country to “Get It”.

    But what do you expect when you tell a Civvie that “MY Oath doesn’t have an Expiration Date!” They “..ain’t Been There, Done That, earned the T-Shirt.”

    Just like after ‘Nam, when we were ALL Baby Killers, it’s up to us to take care of each other.

  2. There is one in my family (not me) who is in that category and he’s getting help. He came back from Afghanistan different than when he left. To their credit, the US Navy recognizes this.

    It use to be that a cry for help meant that your career was over. In this young enlisted man’s case, it appears that is the outcome, but USN is pushing for 50% disability. Even though I can be cynical and critical, I’ve been touched by the change of attitude toward these people in crisis from those who experienced it in my generation.

    I recall a very senior SEAL who was surrounded by the Coronado (CA) Police Department — in the bed chamber of a lady, not his wife — when the husband arrived home early from a business trip. I know that we all chuckle, but in his case, the PTSD had been severe and a wise and caring Navy (rare) helped fix him. He retired with two stars on his collar.

    For all the friends who have been hauled over the Rocks and Shoals, there are a lot of others of all rates and ranks who were not.

  3. Rev- Back then, all they wanted was us to go away…

    Les- Thanks for the help! And good points!

    WSF- Thanks!

    LL- Good point, we ALL came back different, some dealt with it better than others… And glad yours is getting the help he needs NOW!

  4. Friend of mine just retired after 30+ years as a psychologist with the VA. Nice guy and all that, but he never served (and has liberal leanings as well) so he had trouble empathizing with some of his patients. He meant well and was conscientious, but sometimes just couldn’t connect with them. We’ve had several long talks about that. IMO it takes someone who has ‘seen the elephant’ to be effective with today’s troops – especially those who have gone through multiple deployments with short turnaround times.

    Like several of you have said, it’s up to us…