This Veteran's Day, please thank those who have risked and given their lives for our safety. While you're doing that, please take a bit more time to consider what we can do to support our vets when they return home.
- Reports differ, but most sources agree that an average of 18-22 veterans die from suicide each day.
- According to the VA, in 2014 veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among US adults, while vets constituted 8.5% of the population.
- Approximately 66% of all veteran suicides were the result of firearm injuries.
- There is continued evidence of high burden of suicide among middle-aged and adult veterans. In 2014, approximately 65% of all veterans who died from suicide were aged 50 or over.
- One in two veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars say they know a fellow service member who attempted or committed suicide.
- Risk for suicide is 21% higher among veterans, when compared to US civilian adults.
- After adjusting for differences in age, risk for suicide was 2.4 times higher among female veterans, when compared to US civilian adult females.
- At least 20% of the veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from either major depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Military members who experienced a traumatic brain injury were more than twice as likely to suffer from PTSD than service members who did not. Only 50% of returning veterans who need mental health treatment will receive services.
AND MORE: It is hard to know how many homeless US veterans are on the streets due to their transient nature, but HUD estimates that almost 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. That's approximately 11% of the homeless adult population. Access to the VA's services for homeless and at-risk veterans is available 24/7 by calling 1-877-4AID-VET.
Women veterans are four times as likely to become homeless as male veterans, while all returning veterans are twice as likely to become chronically homeless as other Americans.
The Veterans Crisis Line provides access to mental health crisis intervention and support. If you are at risk and seeking support, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press "1" to reach skilled responders trained in suicide prevention and crisis intervention, or text 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can also visit www.veteranscrisisline.net for assistance and resources for veterans and their families.
The VA has released several mobile apps to support veterans and their families. Look for apps like PTSD Coach, PTSD Family Coach, Concussion Coach, CBT-i Coach (for insomnia), ACT Coach (for depression), Mindfulness Coach, and Moving Forward (for problem-solving training). Coaching Into Care (www.va.gov.coachingintocare) assists family members and friends helping a veteran seek care.
Many of our nation's veteran care programs are broken, poorly managed, and/or underfunded. Our veterans often wait entirely too long for essential care and many give VA health programs abysmal satisfaction ratings. We have long needed to overhaul the Veteran's Administration and, while some improvements have been seen, we still have quite a way to go. If you are a veteran in distress or know a veteran in distress, please make use of the resources above. Do not stay silent.
We owe a great debt to those that have served. We are failing in our charge to support them.
The man who has been elected president has made many promises to our veterans. He has also said questionable or deplorable things about our veterans, war heroes, their families, and quite a number of other related things. I hope for the sake of our nation and all who have served that he follows through on those promises. I hope for the good of our country he considers the human cost of all military action and does not stoke the fires of unrest, at home or abroad. As with all administrations, I hope this president does not involve our good men and women in needless combat missions.
Here are a few of the men and women I know and love who have served our country. I know they do not all share my political views, but I love and respect them just the same. Thanks for your service.