More US veterans die due to suicide than in combat

Posted: 2011/05/23 in Geopolitics
Tags: , , , , ,

There is an epidemic of suicides among veterans overseas and are ca. 950 suicide attempts each month by US veterans. 7% of the attempts are successful, and 11 percent of those who don’t succeed on the first attempt try again within 9 months. Women attempt suicide more often, but men are more likely to succeed in the attempt, mainly because women use less lethal and less violent means while men are more likely to use firearms.

‎18 veterans commit suicide each day. Suicide attempts by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans remains a key area of concern. In fiscal 2009, which ended Sept. 30, there were 1,621 suicide attempts by men and 247 by women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, with 94 men and four women dying.

More US veterans are committing suicide than are dying in combat overseas. Of the 1.6 million US soldiers who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, 18-20 percent — or around 300,000 — show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or both. Left untreated, PTSD and depression can lead to substance abuse, alcoholism or other life-threatening behaviors.

VA apparently concealed veteran suicide statistics in 2008, and fed the news organization faulty data for a story on the issue. The VA told CBS that there were 790 attempted suicides in all of 2007. Yet shortly after, the VA’s head of Mental Health, Dr. Ira Katz, wrote in an e-mail to the VA’s top media adviser that there were “about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities.”

The e-mail exchange shows that the VA hoped to keep the statistics out of CBS’s hands:

From: Katz, Ira R.
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 11:27 AM
To: Chasen, Ev
Subject: FW: Not for the CBS News Interview Request

Shh!

Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see at our medical facilities. Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?

From: Chasen, Ev
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 11:40 AM
To: Katz, Ira R.

I think this is something we should discuss among ourselves, before issuing a release. Is the fact that we’re stooping them good news, or is the sheer number bad news? […]

According to an April 2008 study by the Rand Corporation, 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans currently suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or major depression. Another 320,000 suffer from traumatic brain injury, physical brain damage. A majority are not receiving help from the Pentagon and VA system which are more concerned with concealing unpleasant facts than they are with providing care.

In its study, the RAND Corporation wrote that the federal government fails to care for war veterans at its own peril — noting post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury “can have far reaching and damaging consequences.”

“Individuals afflicted with these conditions face higher risks for other psychological problems and for attempting suicide. They have higher rates of unhealthy behaviors — such as smoking, overeating, and unsafe sex — and higher rates of physical health problems and mortality. Individuals with these conditions also tend to miss more work or report being less productive,” the report said. “These conditions can impair relationships, disrupt marriages, aggravate the difficulties of parenting, and cause problems in children that may extend the consequences of combat trauma across generations.”

“These consequences can have a high economic toll,” RAND said. “However, most attempts to measure the costs of these conditions focus only on medical costs to the government. Yet, direct costs of treatment are only a fraction of the total costs related to mental health and cognitive conditions. Far higher are the long-term individual and societal costs stemming from lost productivity, reduced quality of life, homelessness, domestic violence, the strain on families, and suicide. Delivering effective care and restoring veterans to full mental health have the potential to reduce these longer-term costs significantly.”

To date more than 379,000 people have called the hotline, resulting in more than 13,000 rescues of actively suicidal Veterans. A large number of the phone calls received stem from Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Not every call results in a suicide prevention call but many are from Veterans dealing with a broad range of stressors. Unemployment, homelessness, financial crises, issues in school, or feeling isolated are among the stressors that can lead to a Veteran feeling “trapped” and nowhere to turn.

Katz had attacked CBS last November, after a report exposed 6,200 veteran suicides in 2005. Katz claimed that the number “is not, in fact, an accurate reflection of the rate.” Yet just three days later, he sent an e-mail acknowledging that there are “about 18 suicides per day among America’s 25 million veterans,” a fact that “is supported by the CBS numbers.”

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