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Suicide rate for young veterans continues to increase across the country

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- As the nation paused to honor Veterans Day, a spotlight once again highlighted the rate of veteran suicides nationwide, an issue the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs calls its top priority.

A recent report issued by the VA, which analyzed veteran suicide data in all 50 states, found while the total number of veteran suicides slightly decreased from 2015 to 2016, the suicide rate among veterans between the ages of 18 to 34 “increased substantially.”

Some key findings of the report:

  • 6,079 veterans committed suicide in 2016, down from 6,281 deaths in 2015
  • 893 veterans between 18-34 committed suicide in 2016, 11 were from Indiana
  • The suicide rate for veterans between 18-34 increased from 40.4 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2015 to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2016
  • Indiana’s veteran suicide rate was significantly lower than the national average

“The stigma associated with mental health problems and suicidality is so intense,” Dr. Shannon Woller said, the executive psychologist at the Richard L. Roudebush Indianapolis VA Medical Center. "Military folks are trained to be competent, to be ready at all times, and it`s hard to admit you`re really struggling."

In its report, the VA called the veteran suicide rate “an urgent crisis” noting the agency cannot address the issue alone, since “many veterans do not use VA services and benefits.”

“What the VA has said in this report is that they realize they’re not reaching all the veterans,” Emma Eckart said, an assistant professor of counseling at the University of Indianapolis.

The VA notes the larger community must work to build networks of support, communication and care throughout every community.

“There are many people who make the commitment to die by suicide and they are not going to tell anyone,” Woller said. “And they are not going to leave any trail anywhere. It’s regrettable. But we’re not mind-readers.”

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