Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an invisible wound of war and a dangerous threat to the mental health of veterans, as confirmed by a report released Friday by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs that says an estimated 22 veterans committed suicide in America each day in 2010. That's four more veterans taking their own lives each day compared to 2007 when the number of veteran suicides was 18 per day.
Nearly 70 percent of all veteran suicides were among men and women aged 50 or older, according to the VA report.
"The mental health and well-being of our courageous men and women who have served the nation is the highest priority for VA, and even one suicide is one too many,” said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki in a news release. “We have more work to do and we will use this data to continue to strengthen our suicide prevention efforts and ensure all Veterans receive the care they have earned and deserve.”
While the report notes that the number of veterans who commit suicide each day "has remained relatively stable over the past 12 years", it decreased slightly when compared to the number of all suicides in the U.S. – going down from 25 percent in 1999 to a little over 20 percent in 2010, according to VA researchers.
"This provides preliminary evidence that the programs initiated by VA are improving outcomes," an accompanying "executive summary" signed by the VA’s under secretary for health Dr. Robert A. Petzel stated. "As long as veterans die by suicide, we must continue to improve and provide even better services and care."
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonprofit advocacy group representing more than 200,000 members, said the nation should be "outraged" by the number of veteran suicides taking their own lives each day at the rate of nearly one suicide per hour.
“This VA suicide report is the most important piece of data to be released since 2007,” said IAVA founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “Our leaders in Washington need to accelerate efforts to shrink wait times for mental health care and find more creative solutions like the Veteran Crisis Line" — 800-273-TALK.”
"The country should be outraged that we are allowing this tragedy to continue The trends are headed in the wrong direction,” Rieckhoff added. “As veterans, we at IAVA understand the spectrum of challenges facing veterans transitioning home, including the struggle with invisible wounds. One thing is clear, we need more research and more collaboration.”
Friday's report also mentioned female veterans and Vietnam-era veterans, saying that both demographic groups also require extra urgency when it comes to suicidal behaviors. VA officials said they will be developing "additional training programs" to help better target those two groups of the U.S. veteran population.