According to alarming results from a new survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 30 percent of members surveyed have considered taking their own life. Thirty-seven percent of respondents know a veteran who has committed suicide, while 45% of respondents know a veteran who has attempted to commit suicide.
Over the past couple months the face of suicide has come into clearer focus with findings like this - and also the personal stories of two veterans:
--Tomas Young, Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and subject of the documentary Body of War, who stated his intention of ending his own life.
--Daniel Somers, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, whose suicide note went viral shortly after being posted.
Ultimately, Tomas decided not to end his life, but for Daniel it was too late.
There are still gaps in our knowledge of and data about suicide. We still don't have accurate numbers about how many veterans take their own lives - the best estimate from the VA is 22 veterans from all eras commit suicide every day. The Army on Wednesday reported a total of 22 potential suicide in June 2013, 14 among active duty troops and 8 among Guard and Reserve troops. This brings the annual total of potential suicide for 2013 to 158.
Beyond incomplete reporting, there is still a long way to go to get to the root of the issues surrounding suicide in the military.
What we do know about suicide is that access to care can be critical for a veteran in crisis. That and a simple phone call can and does save lives.
Our work at IAVA remains committed to working with best in class resources to ensure that veterans are getting the care and services they need while they are in the military and once they are discharged. This includes partnering with Vets Prevail to bring online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to our members, and IAVA's Community of Veterans - an online peer to peer support network exclusively for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans.
Most importantly, for the past two years IAVA has been working closely with the Military and Veteran Crisis Line to ensure that every service member, veteran, family member and provider knows that there is free and confidential help available 24 hours a day through phone, text and online. Veterans, or those concerned about veterans, need only call 800-273-8255 and press 1 to be directly connected to qualified responders.
In IAVA's Member Survey, we were hearted to see that 93 percent of respondents know about the Veteran Crisis Line. We are working to make that number 100 percent.
If you take one thing away from this piece, program the Veteran Crisis Line into your phone (800 273 8255) or contact us to have materials sent to you. If you or someone you know is in crisis, make the call.
We know it makes a difference.