By Verdie Bowen
State of Alaska
Office of Veterans Affairs
In September of 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs released findings from its analysis of Veteran suicide data for 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
The findings were based upon a comprehensive examination of more than 55 million records from 1979 to 2014.
Among many other things, they found that risk for suicide was 22 percent higher among veterans when compared to U.S. non-veteran adults.
We lose a veteran to suicide every 72 minutes, equaling 20 veterans a day.
Veteran suicide has become an epidemic.
We live in the state with the highest veteran per capita population in the nation. This is an epidemic that at some point will touch us all.
The good news is that we can all contribute to reducing or eliminating this number by being aware of the problem and educating ourselves and others about risk factors, how to help, and who to contact.
Common Risk Factors:
Unable to adjust into the community or find work
Not getting along with life-long friends and family members
Lacking the desire to enjoy previous hobbies (IE: camping, fishing, hunting)
Unable to keep a job
Cannot sleep at night
Self-medicate (IE: medications, drugs, alcohol) to consider sleeping
Lack of motivation and energy
Functioning requires drugs, copious amounts of caffeine, nicotine, and other amphetamines.
TBI / PTSD
Any traumatic brain injury and post traumatic injuries whether diagnosed or not.
Sad, lethargic, lacking energy to communicate or function normally.
This is also known as self-medicating. Alcohol is needed to sleep. To awaken requires excessive caffeine, and illegal drugs, or other stimulants. One third of all suicides occurred when the veteran had been drinking or doing drugs.
Major Life Stressor
Most suicide attempts in the Veteran community occurred roughly within two weeks after a major life stressor. For instance: loss of a family member, home, marriage, or job. The majority of suicides center around financial or relationship issues.
One of the best ways to help is listen. I know it is difficult sometimes to just listen without providing guidance but in reality, being heard helps lesson the tensions of life. If you know someone is having a difficult time, reach out. A friendly face is a reminder that someone out there still cares. Remember, this epidemic is not going to get better until we all take an active role. If you are reading this, you are the most important person in this equation.
Finally, make contact – either with your friend or for your friend with a professional.
The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis, and/or their families and friends with qualified, caring VA staff through a toll-free hotline (1-800-273-8255 (Talk), and press 1).
If you ever need to talk, you are always welcome to stop by my office for a cup of coffee.
It’s free and either I or my staff will be more than pleased to speak with you. For directions to the office or if you just want to talk, give us a call. Our phone number is 907-334-0874 or toll-free 1-888-248-3682. I believe together we can change the epidemic of veterans’ suicide.