NPR Looks at Veteran Suicides and Gun Availability

15 Jun 2017

A recent NPR story examines the connection between veteran suicides and access to guns. Recent trends dramatize the urgency of the issue, but taking any action is controversial.

Suicide rates have been rising in the US, and veterans now have a higher rate than civilians for the first time in history. The situation is especially alarming for women. Female veterans have a suicide rate between two and five times higher than women who never served, based on figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

While numerous studies show that limiting access to guns dramatically decreases the risk of suicide, it can be difficult to balance the right to gun ownership with the need to prevent suicides. Recent events in Congress highlight the dilemma. Currently, the VA makes veterans who have been declared mentally incompetent unable to buy a new gun by flagging their names in the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System. A bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, would add a provision requiring a judge or magistrate to put veterans on the NICS. Roe believes that strengthens due process while opponents worry that it could weaken suicide prevention efforts.

While reliable data is difficult to come by, the Harvard School of Public Health has conducted many of the key studies in this area. Work such as theirs suggests some initial steps:

Take private action. As the NPR story describes, veterans could be encouraged to voluntarily surrender arms to family and friends when they feel at risk.

Support mental health services. Maintaining and expanding mental health services would help deal with the underlying issues behind the rise in suicides.

Train gatekeepers. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers need training on how to discuss these issues with the clients they serve.

Change the debate. "The public health message is neither anti-gun nor pro-gun. It’s pro-data," says Matthew Miller, associate director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. It's a good point to keep in mind for moving ahead.

The Veterans Law Group is one of the most respected advocates for disabled veterans within the legal community. Contact us to learn more.

New Study Reveals Veteran Suicide Rates

06 Oct 2016

Transitioning to life after the military can be difficult, and issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, physical disabilities, and depression compound the problems. Veterans have a suicide rate that is 50% higher than those who have never served in the military.

In July, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in Washington released the results of a study examining over 55 million Veteran records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation. The analysis revealed that an average of 20 Veterans a day died from suicide in 2014.

Other key findings included:

  • Most of those who died are older. 65% of Veterans who died from suicide in 2014 were 50 years of age or older.
  • Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults.
  • The risk of suicide is 21% greater for Veterans.
  • Veterans who receive treatment are better off. Since 2001, the rate of suicide among US Veterans who use VA services increased by 8.8%, while the rate of suicide among Veterans who do not use VA services increased by 38.6%.

The VA is attempting to put in place a number of measures to address the suicide risk in Veterans, including ensuring same-day service for Veterans with urgent mental health needs. Other efforts include:

  • Using predictive modeling to identify Veterans at high risk of suicide and providing early intervention
  • Establishing four new regional telemental health hubs.
  • Hiring over 60 new crisis intervention responders for the Veterans Crisis Line. Responders are trained in crisis intervention, substance use disorders, screening, brief intervention, and treatment referral.
  • Building new collaborations between Veteran programs in VA and those working in community settings, such as Give an Hour, Psych Armor Institute, University of Michigan’s Peer Advisors for Veterans Education Program (PAVE), and the Cohen Veterans Network.
  • Creating stronger inter-agency (e.g. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health) and new public-private partnerships (e.g., Johnson & Johnson Healthcare System, Bristol Myers SquibbFoundation, Walgreen’s, and many more) focused on preventing suicide among Veterans.

Trained in a military mindset the eschews any perceived weaknesses, it is often difficult for Veterans who are suffering to ask for help. Anyone who suffers a job loss or struggles with relationship issues and financial worries feels a heavy weight of stress on their shoulders. Unfortunately, Veterans may feel as if they should not need help with these burdens.

If you are suffering from depression or thoughts of suicide, contact us. We can help you get the psychological help you deserve. Immediate help is available at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or texting 838255.

13 Sep 2016 at 1:24 PM -- 8 errors

Female Veteran Suicide Rates Are Staggeringly High

15 Dec 2015

Veterans already have some of the highest risks of suicide. However, women who serve in the armed services seem to be at a much higher risk of suicide. According to new statistics, the rate of suicide for female veterans is as much as six times as high as for civilian women.

In fact, the rates of suicide for female veterans are very close to the rate for male vets. This is surprising because males in the civilian population are much more likely to commit suicide than women. In the general civilian population, the suicide rate for women is approximately 5.2 per 100,000 population. For civilian males, the rate is 20.9 suicides per 100,000 population. However, when you consider the statistics for veterans, the rate is disturbing. For female veterans, the rate of suicide is 28.7 suicides per 100,000 population, while for male veterans, the rate is 32.1 suicides.

Even more staggeringly, the rate of suicide is highest among young veterans. Among female veterans between ages 18 and 29, the rate of suicide was three times as much as the rate for non-veterans. The rates of suicide are much higher for female veterans in every age group. According to the researchers, this seems to indicate that the reason for these high suicide levels is not just stress and other related factors, but other causes that have more to do to the women's backgrounds and their experiences in the armed forces.

There is no doubt that the statistics are incredibly disturbing, and we need to understand why suicide seems to be such an endemic problem among female veterans. It is important to understand more about the experiences of women in the armed forces that contribute to this problem.

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