Department of Veteran Affairs sees Decrease in Veteran Suicide
ST. CLOUD -- The Department of Veteran Affairs says they have seen a decrease in the number of veteran’s committing suicide. In a release the VA says an average of 20 veterans a day committed suicide in 2014 compared to 2010.
St. Cloud VA Suicide Prevention Coordinator Mary Jo Pine says, when she spoke to the Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington their response was six veterans out of the 20 were actively engaged in VA healthcare system. That means that the other 14 veterans were not enrolled in getting VA healthcare.
Pine says they have learned that veterans that are getting care within the VA are less likely to die from suicide and attempt suicide. However, any suicide is one too many and they are continuing to work very hard at decreasing the number of suicide among veterans.
As far as the number of veteran suicides in the VA surrounding areas here; this year so far there has been a total of 15 deaths. Pine say this number does not represent the whole state of Minnesota or account to all suicide deaths. Four out of the 15 were deemed accidents 11 were suicides by veterans.
“Six out of the 11 were not enrolled not getting care within the VA either here or some other VA. Five were actually getting care within our VA healthcare system, but that’s covering our catchment area that doesn’t mean in the whole state of Minnesota” says Pine.
Sixty five percent of people that end their life are over the age of 50. The mean age for suicide in the United States is 59 years old which is consistent with the veteran population. Older white male are at more risk for suicide.
There are many things that contribute to veterans committing suicide. It’s hard to pin point it at one thing because every individual is different. However what the VA has seen is that 50 percent of veterans die from the use of firearm.
“Veterans are more likely to use a firearm and that is consistent from what I am seeing on our report. That is why we stress so hard among our providers here and when I do training in the community. We look at means restriction that is one of the biggest interventions we can do for people, is look at firearm restriction. It is the number one means that people use to end their life not just veterans but across the board” says Pine.
The VA wants to stress that it is not in the business of gun control. They are very clear with that with the veterans because their only goal is to keep them safe.
If you and your family would like more information about the VA or ways to help your loved one. The St. Cloud VA is holding a community Mental Health Summit tomorrow (Tuesday) from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn located at 75 South 37th Avenue. The summit will address the mental health care needs of veterans and their family members.
If you are not able to attend the VA does suicide prevention training for the general population. For families that have veterans in their lives the VA says the most important thing you can do is be there for them.
If you have a loved one you are concerned about family and friends are encouraged to call the Veterans Crisis Line. This 1-800 hundred number is connected to the National Suicide Prevention line which also has a direct connection to the veteran crisis line but if you press one your call will be directed to the veteran crisis line.
Pine says the line is run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all year long and they will never turn away veterans or put them on hold.