BY: Dustin Lujan

It has been recognized that suicides have become a major problem among active-duty service members who have served during the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  In 2012, there were 349 suicides amongst individuals on active duty, this was greater than the number of deaths that resulted from combat during the same period of time.  This works out to approximately one suicide every day.  Recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) brought attention to the equally troubling issue of suicide amongst U.S. veterans.  The VA, in a report issued on February 1, 2013, declared that there are approximately 22 veteran suicides every day.  That works out to approximately one suicide every 65 minutes. Veterans suicides account for 21 percent of all suicides in the United States.

To help combat this rising problem, President Obama issued an executive order on August 31, 2012 requiring the VA to increase the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line to assist veterans that may be having suicidal thoughts or ideations.  The VA reports that the crisis line has resulted in 26,000 rescues of actively suicidal veterans.  Raising awareness about this problem is important because it shows the significance of getting veterans the care they need and deserve from the VA.  As we as a society have begun to recognize the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) there has been a proliferation of resources available to individuals that have experienced trauma through their military service.  It is important that veterans are made aware of these services.

At the same time, it is important for individuals working with veterans be on the lookout for potential warning signs of suicidal behavior.  During my time working with the Veterans Benefits Clinic at William and Mary I have learned some of the signs that may indicate an individual is suffering from PTSD or depression.  Many veterans have been through traumatic experiences as part of their service defending this country and it is imperative that we as a society work together to provide them the resources necessary to cope with these issues.  A part of this process is getting veterans the VA benefits they are entitled to. This is part of the reason why I feel that the Veterans Benefits Clinic provides such an invaluable service to our nation’s veterans.

Much work has been done to combat the effects of PTSD and depression amongst veterans, but there still remains much work to do.  22 suicides every day is simply unacceptable and the VA and other organizations will continue to work vigorously to lower this number.  The VA’s crisis hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.  Additionally, there are multiple resources available at the Veterans Crisis Line  website at www.veteranscrisisline.net.

 

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