Around 20 veterans nationwide committed suicide each day in 2014, according to new statistics released by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in July. The information highlights the mental health crisis facing veterans today.
The veteran suicide rate in the United States has commonly been quoted as an estimated 22 per day. Although the figure has been used for years, veterans groups and health care experts have questioned its accuracy. The recent findings come from the VA’s most comprehensive suicide study to date. The department analyzed the records of more than 55 million veterans from each state between 1979 and 2014.
The VA said it will use the data to improve suicide prevention programs and mental health care policies. The department said it was “aggressively” implementing new measures to address the problem. In particular, there will be greater focus on high-risk groups including female and older veterans. For example, veterans will have same-day access for urgent mental health care needs.
The VA has enhanced its Veterans Crisis Line and hired thousands of support personnel in recent years. “Veterans in the top 0.1 percent of risk, who have a 43-fold increased risk of death from suicide within a month, can be identified before clinical signs of suicide are evident in order to save lives before a crisis occurs,” the VA said in a statement.
Around 70 percent of veterans who committed suicide did not regularly use VA services. However, the data indicated that veterans’ suicide risk may decrease through the use of VA services.