While we’ve all been preoccupied with Brett Kavanaugh’s fight for SCOTUS, another much quieter fight has been brewing all across the country. Each day, America’s veterans struggle with mental illness, PTSD, and severe Depression – illnesses that often drive them toward suicide and cause them to take their own lives.
Now, one new report and a special hearing from the VA, which many of us missed during the Kavanaugh debacle, is highlighting just how serious the issue really is.
• Our veterans often suffer quietly and in silence, either refusing to ask for help or being unable to find it when they need it. They are one of the most overlooked and often-forgotten groups in America, sent home to endure a life of struggle after serving with little to no thought about their well-being.
• The VA’s report, found here, covers the years from 2005 all the way through 2016. In 2015, 40.4 veterans between the age of 18 and 34 took their own lives for every 100,000 veterans falling into the same age group in America.
• By the next year alone, the suicide rate for veterans in the same age group jumped to 45. The nearly five-point increase represents a 2.07 percent increase in suicides across young vets.
• The report also highlights the fact that veterans have a dramatically higher risk for suicide than the average U.S. population. The average overall rate sits at around 13.42 per 100,000 citizens as of 2016, though it, too, is rising.
• Translated out to the greater population, these numbers mean that approximately 20 veterans take their own lives in the United States every single day. Twenty veterans – people who served their country only to be virtually forgotten by those who promised them help – gone as a result of a very treatable illness before age 35.
• That’s exactly what House Committee representative Phil Roe, M.D, had in mind when he sought a hearing to discuss the statistics and initiatives to turn them around. Because the hearing took place on the same day as the Kavanaugh hearing, few Americans even knew it was happening.
• “We know from VA’s testimony that fourteen of those twenty veterans have not sought medical care at VA,” he explained. “…only 30% of veterans who commit suicide have been to a VA campus for an appointment.”
• Roe, like many of us, points out the audacity of the VA’s failing attempts to meet the needs of struggling veterans. “What did these veterans, men and women who reached an appalling level of crisis, find lacking when they sought VA healthcare or what prevented them from seeking mental health services from VA in the first place?
• The the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization also provided a statement at the same hearing. They have been instrumental in raising awareness in suicides for veterans, laying flags in remembrance all across the country over recent weeks.
• Other important individuals and entities took the time to speak out at the hearing, too, pushing for support for veterans. Names included the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NIMH), Disabled American Veterans, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, the American Legion, the Whistleblowers of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
• It isn’t yet clear just what will happen, but the hearing made it clear that change is an absolute must. Despite Christine Ford’s false allegations detracting from this important topic, veterans should know that there are people out there fighting for them at all times. Hopefully, we find ways to meet their needs before even one more veteran loses a life.