An average of 20 veterans died from suicide every day in 2014, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
That number comes from the largest analysis the department has ever conducted on the suicide rate among veterans in the U.S.
It looked at more than 55 million veteran records over a 35 year period, from 1979 to 2014, and included every state in the nation.
Previously, the department had estimated the suicide rate among veterans nationwide was 22 people a day, but that number was from a report in 2010 that only examined three million veteran records from 20 states.
The final report will be publicly released later this month, but the VA included some of the key findings in a news release Thursday:
- 65 percent of all Veterans who died from suicide in 2014 were 50 years of age or older.
- Veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults. This is a decrease from 22 percent in 2010.
- Since 2001, U.S. adult civilian suicides increased 23 percent, while Veteran suicides increased 32 percent in the same time period. After controlling for age and gender, this makes the risk of suicide 21 percent greater for Veterans.
- Since 2001, the rate of suicide among U.S. Veterans who use VA services increased by 8.8 percent, while the rate of suicide among Veterans who do not use VA services increased by 38.6 percent.
- In the same time period, the rate of suicide among male Veterans who use VA services increased 11 percent, while the rate of suicide increased 35 percent among male Veterans who do not use VA services.
- In the same time period, the rate of suicide among female Veterans who use VA services increased 4.6 percent, while the rate of suicide increased 98 percent among female Veterans who do not use VA services.
“Any time a person who fought to defend America dies by their own hand, it’s a tragedy. And these numbers are heartbreaking proof that we have a long way to go in order to end this troubling trend. Last year, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which is helping to increase the availability and efficacy of VA’s suicide prevention and mental health services. The law is a step in the right direction, but sustained progress will require a comprehensive approach to help ensure our most at-risk veterans have not only the care they need but also a job, a purpose and a system of support in place to help carry them through their struggles. Therefore, we as a nation must do more to encourage veterans in need to seek treatment and ask for help. And until we stop the epidemic of veteran suicides in this country, there will always be more work to do.”
According to the news release, VA has implemented several initiatives to help veterans, including a veterans crisis line, placing suicide prevention coordinators at all VA Medical Centers and large outpatient facilities, and improving case management and tracking.
Immediate help is available at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or texting 838255.