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VA Publishes Nation’s Largest Report on Veteran Suicide

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

VA Publishes Nation’s Largest Report on Veteran Suicide

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After examining more than 55 million records covering 35 years of data, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) this week released its findings on Veteran suicide rates in the United States. The study is the nation’s largest comprehensive analysis of Veterans suicide to date. Among its many findings, this report estimates that 20 Veterans a day die by suicide. This is compared to a 2012 study which estimated the rate was higher, 22 Veterans per day.

The report found the following:

  • Approximately 65 percent of all Veterans who died by suicide in 2014 were 50 years of age or older.
  • Veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults – a decrease from 22 percent in 2010.
  • Since 2001, Veterans suicides increased 32 percent compared to a 23 percent increase among U.S. adult civilian suicides. After controlling for age and gender, this makes the risk of suicide 21 percent greater for Veterans.
  • Since 2001, the rate of suicide among U.S. Veterans who use VA services increased by 8.8 percent, while the rate of suicide among Veterans who do not use VA services increased by 38.6 percent.

In the release, the Department made clear its aggressive undertaking to address this issue, including:

  • Promoting the toll-free Veterans Crisis Line, connecting Veterans in crisis and their families with qualified mental health responders. In addition, VA will place additional Suicide Prevention Coordinators at all VA Medical Centers and large outpatient facilities and dedicate resources to improving case management and tracking.
  • Ensuring same-day access for Veterans with urgent mental health needs at over 1,000 points of care by the end of 2016. In fiscal year 2015, more than 1.6 million Veterans received mental health treatment at over 150 medical centers 820 community-based outpatient clinics.
  • Expanding telemental health care by establishing four new regional telemental health hubs across the VA health care system.
  • Hiring over 60 new crisis intervention responders for the Veterans Crisis Line. Each responder receives intensive training on a wide variety of topics in crisis intervention, substance use disorders, screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment.
  • Using predictive modeling to determine which Veterans may be at highest risk of suicide, promoting early intervention services. Veterans in the top 0.1% of risk are more than 40-times more likely to die from suicide within a month. This population can be identified before clinical signs of suicide are evident in order to save lives before a crisis occurs.
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