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Veterans and Suicide

A report issued in the spring of 2010 estimated that 18 veterans die by suicide every day. The same report found that as many as 950 suicide attempts each month occur among veterans receiving services through the Veterans Administration (VA). The rate is lower, however, among veterans aged 19-29 who are receiving services when compared to those who are not currently receiving care through the VA.

While officials speculate that a better screening and reporting system may be a factor in the increase, it is also likely that repeated deployments during the extended conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are a part of the equation. The suicide rate is also impacted by high levels of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in young veterans who served in one of these regions. One study at the San Francisco VA found that veterans were less likely to complete PTSD treatment if they were male, under the age of 25, living in a rural area or received a PTSD diagnosis from a primary care clinic rather than a mental health program.

While the VA is implementing programs to address these challenges, there are also many supports available for veterans. Perhaps the most important number for veterans in distress is the suicide hotline with counseling specifically for military service members and veterans. Counselors experienced in the specific stressors that military members face are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (800) 273-8255.

This video produced by New Mexico State University features three veterans from World War II and Vietnam discussing the coping strategies these men used to cope with the lingering combat stress.

Other resources:

NAMI Resources on Suicide
NAMI has compiled a number of general resources on suicide.

National Call Center for Homeless Vets
877 4AID-VET (424-3838))

National Resource Directory
This online partnership for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans also provides resources for their families and supporters.

Wounded Warrior Project
The Wounded Warrior Project sponsors programs to honor and empower wounded warriors.

Real Warriors Campaign
These anti-stigma initiatives and programs promote resilience and recovery for veterans, service members and their families.

National Veterans Foundation
This resource center provides benefits assistance and PTSD information.
(888) 777-4443

Give An Hour
These free mental health services are for those service members and their families affected by Iraq and Afghanistan.

Returning Veterans Project
Free counseling and other health services are available for veterans and their families.

Operation Promise for Service Members
This counseling hotline is available for veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
(866) VETS-NJ4

National Call Center for Homeless Veterans
The National Call Center provides counseling, employment and training assistance for veterans.
(877) 527-8387

Vet2Vet Veterans Crisis Hotline
This warmline provides peer-to-peer support and a resource database.
(877) VET2VET (838-2838)

Branch-specific Resources

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Suicide Prevention Overview
Read this list of suicide warning signs and other crisis resources.

Air Force Suicide Prevention Program
These air force personnel booklets and training manuals are targeted at suicide prevention.

U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine Suicide Materials
Posters, brochures and other materials for service members are available for download.

Coast Guard Suicide Awareness Program
These resources are tailored for Coast Guard personnel.
(800) 222-0364

Marine Corps Community Services Suicide Prevention Program
The Marine Corps provides these brochures and resources for veterans, families and health professionals,
(800) 273-8255 (TALK)

Navy Suicide Prevention Program
The Navy has compiled a list of posters and educational resources.

News and Media

Civilian Soldiers' Suicide Rate Alarming
National Guard soldiers who are not on active duty killed themselves in 2010 at nearly twice the rate of 2009.

Navy Personnel Command: Sailors Unite for Suicide Prevention
The Navy rolled out a new suicide prevention poster that encourages sailors in distress to reach out for help and urges shipmates to look out for each other.

SAMHSA: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network Answers Two Millionth Call
Through a partnership between SAMSHA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the lifeline linked up the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline to provide around the clock access to specialized crisis counseling for veterans and families.

Huffington Post: PBS’s “This Emotional Life”
This article discusses the “This Emotional Life” episode on remembering military suicides.


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