Veteran Suicide, Addiction, And Homelessness: The Sad Reality For Many Of Our Nation’s Warriors
November 11 is Veterans Day, the day when Americans pay respect to the men and women who have served their country in the armed forces. Unfortunately, we must also address concerns posed by military personnel and their families regarding the lack of mental and medical health care provided to our nation’s warriors.
Two of the biggest killers of veterans are drug overdoses and suicides. Indeed, in 2014, an average of 20 veterans committed suicide each day, according to the Veterans Affairs’ Office of Suicide Prevention. What’s more, nearly 1 in 5 of all adult American suicides that year were a veteran suicide, although vets make up less than 9% of the population.
Males had a 19 percent higher risk of suicide compared to the civilian population, and women were 2.5 times more likely to commit suicide than their female civil counterparts. Sadly, young veterans age 18-29 had the highest suicide rates.
Why? Well, the VA notes in its most recent report, that veterans often either don’t receive or have access to the health services that they require.
The opioid epidemic isn’t helping, either. Reuters reports that veterans are more likely to be prescribed painkillers for combat injuries, and federal data reveals they are twice as likely to die from a prescription opioid overdose than the general population.
There is also a high rate of homelessness. According to the Department of Housing an Urban Development, an estimated 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night – a situation that is linked to both drug addiction and mental illness.
And then, of course, there’s post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Veterans and PTSD:
- As of September 2014, there were around 2.7 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
- At least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression.
- 50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment
- Out of the half that seek treatment, only half of them get “minimally adequate” treatmen
- 19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Over 260,000 veterans from OIF and OEF so far have been diagnosed with TBI.
- 7% of veterans have both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury
- Rates of post-traumatic stress are greater for these wars than prior conflicts
Author’s Note: See Veterans and PTSD for statistic references.
What’s Being Done?
This week, the House of Representatives and U.S. Senates both unanimously passed measures aimed at helping these veterans. From the Senate legislation:
“This bill requires the [FCC] to coordinate with [SAMHSA] and to consult with the [VA] to examine: (1) the feasibility of designating a three-digit dialing code for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system; and (2) the effectiveness of the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), including how well it addresses the needs of veterans.
The House bill will require a study of the Veteran Crisis Line to determine its effectiveness and if it could be improved.
Meanwhile, the VA states it has been attempting to get care to veterans more promptly.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
References For Veteran Suicide