By Tracy Lee
Special to the Sun
U.S. veteran males are twice as likely to commit suicide than U.S. non-veteran males. Conversely, U.S. veteran males die of natural causes at the same rate as U.S. non-Veteran males. (Suicide among Male Veterans: A Prospective Population-based Study, Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 2007) Over the past 13 years, male veteran suicide rates have increased by 29.7 percent.
U.S. veteran females are 250 percent more likely to commit suicide than U.S. non-veteran females as presented in the “Veteran Suicide Statistics by State, 2017” report issued through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Over the last 13 years, suicide rates among female veterans have increased by 62.4 percent.
In 2019, the U.S. Government dropped its U.S. Veteran suicide rate from 22-per-day down to 17-per-day. Unfortunately, the rate of suicides among veterans did not decrease during that time frame. In order to achieve statistical improvement and hone in on exact auxiliary numbers, the consideration factors have been divided into segments. The VA’s Annual National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report included data from 2017. (Military Times, October 2019)
In 2017, more than 6,100 veterans died by suicide, an increase of 2 percent over the previous year. Of these deaths, firearms accounted for 70.7 percent of male veteran suicide deaths compared to 53 percent for non-veteran males, and 41.2 percent of female veteran suicide deaths compared to 32.4 percent for non-veteran females. (Military.com, September 2019) Alarmingly, the Department of Veterans Affairs report shows that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017.
The reported decline in statistics was achieved when the VA removed former National Guard and Reserve members who were never federally activated from consideration. National Guard and Reserve members who were never federally activated suffered 2.5 deaths per day claiming a considerable 12.4 percent of all military suicides in 2017. The statistic was also adjusted to exclude active duty service members. (Stars and Stripes, September 2019)
Outside experts note that in the exploration of suicide markers, both men and women suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, females may develop an additional disorder directly related to their sex, Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Women who were exposed to sexual harassment during their service are twice as likely to commit suicide than are other female veterans. (Journal of Emergency and Trauma Care, Why are Veterans Increasingly Committing Suicide, January 2019.)
A federal investigation found that money and effort expended by the VA on suicide prevention outreach dropped significantly in 2017 and 2018. Moreover, the Government Accountability Office reported that the VA left nearly $5 million sitting unused in its suicide prevention outreach budget last year. In their defense, the agency claims there have been significant improvements in their program.
As a funeral director, I find these numbers and claims to be 100 percent appalling. With such high suicide rates certified through VA reports, I am unable to understand how nearly $5 million dollars sat in an account unapplied toward preventative programs. In my opinion, every community within the confines of U.S. borders, and every country benefiting from U.S. service members risking and losing their lives, owes a debt of not only gratitude but caregiving, toward U.S. veterans.
It has always been said that if you want to really mess things up, invite the government to regulate, implement, oversee, or fund your project. It, therefore, seems obvious, that with these horrendous facts staring us in the face, it is time for the government to step aside, and for Americans to step up and help our U.S. veterans survive. The government has obviously failed at the task.
Not one more U.S. veteran should suffer hopelessness, homelessness, hunger, fear, isolation, assault, depression, poverty, lack of medical care, substandard medical care, or abuse. Not one more!
There are a number of celebrities who lend their time, talent, fortunes, and celebrity to improve the lives of U.S. Vets. May God bless them! There are also celebrities who use their time, talent, fortunes, and celebrity to tear U.S. Vets, and our country down. May God smite them!
I implore you to reach into your heart and extend your soul to improving the lives of U.S. service members and veterans. They’ve done it for you, now it’s your turn to do it for them.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
God Bless America and God Bless the American Veteran, please.