Rising suicide sparks call for help

Every day in America, almost 18 military veterans die as a result of suicide, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), so progressive Democrat Lisa McCormick is calling for more resources to be directed at programs and services that can help protect the people who defended freedom around the world.

“This is a very sad but preventable health problem in the U.S., where veterans comprise nearly a quarter of the deaths caused by people killing themselves,” said McCormick.

The suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times higher than that of the general population.

“The VA is leading efforts to understand suicide risk factors, develop evidence-based prevention programs, and prevent veteran suicide through a public health approach, but at the state and local government level, there are opportunities to show these former military members that we care about them,” said McCormick.

As part of its work, VA analyzes data at the national and state levels to guide the design and execution of the most effective strategies to prevent veteran suicide.

Suicide is a national public health issue, with more than 45,000 Americans dying by suicide each year and rates increasing among people ages 10–75 but data shows a more severe increase in deaths by suicide among veterans.

“Veteran suicide is one of the greatest crises of our time,” said McCormick. “Since Sept. 11, 2001, just over 30,000 veterans have died by suicide — four times more than the number of U.S. military personnel who died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

There is no single reason a veteran, or anyone, believes suicide is their only option. Veterans in this country are an extremely diverse group, by age, gender, education level and socioeconomic status. However, research clearly shows a correlation between suicide and substance use disorders, untreated or under-treated mental health conditions (often borne or exacerbated by their military service) and stress derived from ongoing economic, legal and relationship challenges.

Research has also shown that veterans with legal problems are nearly twice as likely to have serious thoughts of suicide, and are 1 1/2 times more likely to attempt it, than veterans without legal problems.

It’s one of the reasons the Department of Veterans Affairs strongly encourages VA-housed legal clinics, where VA sites partner with legal providers, such as ours, to help resolve legal problems that are burdening veterans.

Partnerships between organizations — medical care providers and legal aid professionals, for example — are often effective in providing swift and targeted assistance thanks to streamlined communications and referral systems.

Health care workers typically cannot resolve housing instability, food insecurity or child custody challenges, but lawyers can help.

Attorneys can prevent evictions, improve unsafe living conditions and help veterans with financial problems qualify for benefits. Legal representation can also ease the emotional and financial consequences of painful breakdowns of family relationships, which are disproportionately common among veterans.

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