The last decade has witnessed a shocking increase in veterans suicides. A combination of factors has caused thousands of veterans to take their own lives, making veterans one of the most vulnerable demographic groups to committing suicide.
The following post aims to educate readers on the problem of veterans suicide, including potential causes of the problem, as well as how to get help if you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts.
The fact is that veterans suicide rates are extremely high in the U.S., with study after study reporting that this troubling phenomenon continues to get worse year over year. Here are some facts that emerged from recent studies:
The exact causes of skyrocketing suicide rates for veterans are unknown, but many psychiatrists and physicians believe there are multiple contributing factors involved in creating the current crisis. A recent article in the The New York Times suggests that one of the main reasons is due to the economic downturn and the high percentage of returning veterans finding themselves unable to get a job when they have returned to civilian life.
The article states that nearly 27% of veterans aged between 18-24 are unemployed and that when veterans leave their service they often feel like they have lost a sense of “belonging”, as well as a purpose in life. Fortunately, many companies are now pushing to hire veterans, which could help to reduce the current suicide rate.
Another potential cause for veterans suicide is incorrect medical diagnosis for mental health issues and the resulting lack of effective prescription medication and psychological treatments. Many veterans suffer from PTSD after serving overseas, often as a result of witnessing and participating in distressing situations, as well as being forced to endure an extremely stressful and unsettling lifestyle.
PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in veterans, with presenting symptoms that make it difficult for sufferers to live their daily lives. Stress and extreme anxiety are common in PTSD victims, making it extremely difficult for those veterans who suffer from the illness to effectively adjust to civilian life.
Unfortunately, when PTSD is insufficiently treated, it too can become a contributing factor in suicides, with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claiming that trauma survivors are much more likely to commit suicide than those that haven’t encountered significant trauma in their lives.
Although it is not known for certain why so many veterans are committing suicide, strong connections have been made between PTSD, current economic problems, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and veterans suicide rates.
The increase in veterans suicide rates is extremely disturbing, but fortunately, there are some excellent resources available to help those in need. If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD or experiencing feelings of depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, or if you know someone who is suffering from these symptoms then please reach out to one of the following organizations for help:
Veterans Crisis Line
Veterans Crisis Line is a toll-free hotline that provides support to veterans facing any type of emotional crisis 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Their number is 1-800-273-8255 and Press-1 once you get through. You can also chat online or text 838255 to receive support. All of Veterans Crisis Line’s team members are thoroughly trained to effectively help veterans through a crisis, so don’t hesitate to call them if you find yourself in a bad place.
Military Outsource Counseling
The U.S. Government provides a free form of non-medical short-term counseling to veterans experiencing mental distress. Military Outsource offers three types of counseling to qualified applicants – face-to-face, online and by telephone. These counseling sessions are available to eligible active-duty, Guard and Reserve military members and their families.
Maketheconnection.net is a website that offers “shared experiences and support for Veterans.” This site offers a plethora of information about PTSD, suicide prevention resources for veterans and additional information on how to get help. What’s more, the site shares inspiring stories from other veterans who suffer from PTSD and mental issues, providing valuable insight into the fact that those who suffer are not at all alone. This website aims to let veterans know that they can join in and participate with a large, supportive community, and that help is at hand.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is another hotline that provides 24/7 support to anyone that is feeling suicidal or suffering from any type of emotional distress. Call them at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you need someone to talk to. It is free to call and they have several staff members that are trained in dealing with veterans and military members, and are there to help you in your time of need.
If you or someone you know is a veteran and is suffering, you can rest assured knowing that help is available. Use one of the above resources to receive the help you deserve, and remember that there are thousands of other veterans in similar situations as yourself – you are not alone!