No, they were not killed by a terrible natural disaster. They were not killed in tragic accidents. They were not killed in combat or in the line of duty. They were veterans that took their own lives!
According to a 2012 Veterans Administration report 22 veterans committed suicide each day. This is an alarming number of suicides considering the small segment of the population. This number is almost double that for all U.S. military killed in Iraq, 4,486 (2003-2012).
Active duty service members are also taking their own lives in alarming numbers. This despite the ever increasing mental health resources deployed and available throughout the services.
U.S. veterans are not only at risk. According to a BBC report, more British Soldiers took their own lives then were killed in combat in Afghanistan during the same time period.
The CDC reports that the U.S. civilian population suicide rate has steadily increased from 1999-2010. The greatest increase is in the age range 50-64. (About a 49% increase).
The veteran population has a suicide rate roughly double that of the general population! For Veterans 30 per 100,000 people; for the civilian population: 14 per 100,000.
There is a lot of speculation as to why the rates are increasing in both the civilian population and veterans. Some researchers think that the breakdown in community and an increased sense of isolation—yes, even in this electronic age—is contributing to the increase.
The Huffington post article points out in the 1980-90’s the military had a significantly lower rates in divorce, drug abuse and suicide then the civilian population. At that time, the report says, military communities were much tighter.
During my service (2002-2010) I saw a significant decline in the social community of the military. I am sure the war efforts contributed to this decline. Perhaps people withdrawing and hiding behind technology contributed as well.
This decline in esprit de corps is not the key factor that has led to the alarming increase in suicide among service members, veterans and civilians. It may play a role or be a symptom. It is a complex topic that is affecting an increasing number of people.
In the military, most that commit suicide are already receiving care for mental health. The military and VA have increased access to care significantly over the last decade—but the numbers keep climbing. They are also climbing in the civilian world.
There are mixed reports connecting PTSD and suicide. But there seems to be a general consensus that this is a contributing factor. In our next podcast we will address this specific issue.
What do you think?
What can we do to start reversing these numbers among civilian, military and veterans?
Join the conversation!
Need help! This is a list of crisis lines for several countries:
Some other interesting articles and references to fuel the conversation: