Interest

Suicide by the Numbers

Written by J Rawls

Veteran groups and supporters have been banding together to show the populace the numbers of veteran suicide, and they are picking up momentum.  Mainstream media has made some attempts to shed light on the subject, but the attempts are short-lived. So how do we, as a community, address this?

The statistics on veteran suicide originally came out of a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs: Suicide Data Report, 2012. The data shows that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Yes, every day.

Some reporters have reviewed the numbers and state that they may be wrong. One goes as far as saying the numbers are actually far less. This article suggests that the age groups are not correspondent.  It wishes to only look at current war veterans, removing those 50 and older.  “About 72% of veterans are at least age 50. It is not surprising, then, that the VA found that people in this age group account for 69% of veteran suicides — or more than 15 of the 22 per day figure,” stated in the Los Angeles Times: “A misunderstood statistic: 22 military veteran suicides a day.”  Why do they want them removed?  They state, “Many experts believe that the farther a veteran is from military service, the less likely it is that his or her suicide has anything to do with his or her time in uniform.”

Yet, another article states the opposite. The Huffington Post article, “Is the 22-Veterans-Per-Day Suicide Rate Reliable?”, states that the number could be far higher. The article’s author, DeMoss, uses other articles to back up his claim that veteran suicide is being underreported.

Next, a Los Angeles Times article puts the number around 1.5 a day, as opposed to 22 a day. The article then ends with this being the overall answer. The real issue is that even 1.5 is still an issue. It isn’t polite to just drop the number and act as if the lesser amount does not matter. The population of veterans is roughly around 13 percent of the total population according to a Gallup report by Frank Newport, dated Nov. 21, 2012. You can’t just disregard that 1.5, if that were the real number. We are still looking at young people leaving military service and committing suicide at a rate of at least 1 a day.

Further, the math is flawed in answering the logistics of removing those age 50 and over. All veterans know that the average retirement age in the military is around 48 years old. This age could then point to retirement age veterans as the most substantial amount of suicides, if the data were provided that is. For the sake of argument, we will say that their age does not discredit their service; retirement or not. It would be a good point to look at in future research done by the Department of Veterans Affairs or by the Department of Defense.

The truth is the data shows a “22” figure, so we will stick with that. The age range does not matter. This number still shows the amount of veterans that take their own lives daily, regardless. The objective at this point is to bring awareness and solutions to the table. 22 or 1, we need to start making changes. Warfighters are coming home to a changing environment, trained to adapt, yet unable to make it. Why?

They are promised health care, but care is lacking. The backlog on claims, even as they increase capabilities, shows lack of initiative by government officials. Recent releases by the VA show that the numbers have not changed, even with last year’s media attention. Faith in their ability becomes erodes as the VA pleads sincerity in their attempts. Some veterans have been waiting for years, only to be told their injury is not service connected. This action may lead the individual to believe officials now call into question their honesty and integrity, which is demoralizing for veterans.

Veterans are told they have transferable skills, and they do. Yet even that issue falls to how the general populace perceives them. Their worth pitted with the worth perceived. They want to work, they want to live, and they want to be happy, like everyone else. When the road gets too long and they lose hope, we lose another veteran. Warfighters give their all for this country; this country can do more for them. The first step is to realize the loss. 22 a day is 22 too many.

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References

Department of Veterans Affairs, Janet Kemp, RN PhD Robert Bossarte, PhD, “Suicide Data Report 2012,” 2012. Web, https://www.va.gov/opa/docs/Suicide-Data-Report-2012-final.pdf

Gallup, Frank Newport, “In U.S., 24% of Men, 2% of Women Are Veterans.” Nov. 21, 2012, Web, http://www.gallup.com/poll/158729/men-women-veterans.aspx

Huffington Post, Dustin DeMoss, “Is the 22-Veterans-Per-Day Suicide Rate Reliable?” Jan. 5, 2015, Web, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dustin-demoss/veteran-suicide-rate_b_6417182.html

Los Angeles Times, Alan Zarembo, “A misunderstood statistic: 22 military veteran suicides a day,” Dec. 20, 2015, Web, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/dec/20/science/la-sci-sn-veteran-suicide-statistics-20131219


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What are YOUR thoughts?
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About the author

J Rawls

Jeremy Rawls is a former active duty Marine with two combat tours in Iraq. He was part of the invasion in 2003 and later returned for the take down of Fallujah. After leaving the Corps, he worked as a contractor for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security with two contracts in Afghanistan. He is currently a freelance writer.

  • What are YOUR thoughts?

    Here’s mine:
    In all reality, the number everyone quotes is based off an incomplete, inaccurate, fluctuating study. The truth is, that the real number is merely an average (as daily totals are fluctuating figures), and does not take into account a host of other factors. Age was not included in the original VA study, but neither was the lists of any who were reported suicides but who were not a part of the VA system. Homeless Veterans were also not a part of the official count, nor any of those who live in other countries. The fact remains, that the original study is largely incomplete, and so is the accuracy of the widely misused “22 a day” figure today.