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Suicide rate plagues veterans

New theories are being explored to help soldiers figure out ways to deal with stress. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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In the next 72 minutes, a veteran will take his or her own life.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs' most recent study (, conducted in 2014, approximately 20 veterans commit suicide per day.

The study was a comprehensive analysis of veteran suicide rates in the country, and it examined more than 55 million veteran records from 1979 to 2014 from every state.

"This is an unacceptable statistic," said David Shulkin, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, in a Sept. 11 article entitled "Veteran and Military Suicide Prevention." "We're reaching out to community groups, to academic groups, and we're doing research in this area."

Putting the challenge into perspective, the Defense Suicide Prevention Office ( reported the following for the first quarter of 2017:

  • 71 deaths by suicide in the active component
  • 20 deaths by suicide in the Reserves
  • 31 deaths by suicide in the National Guard

The website is an excellent source of statistical analysis going back to the fourth quarter of 2013, and it also provides a warehouse of information about the work being done to lower the suicide rate.

One of the theories being explored is known as the crisis response plan.

"As part of the process, you help someone figure out ways to deal with stress and who they can reach out to," wrote Dr. Craig Bryan, executive director of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah, in the aforementioned article. "People can refer back to index cards, which include this information as well as mental health resources."

In a study published in April (, a randomized clinical trial tested the validity of Bryan's contention on active-duty soldiers at Fort Carson, Colorado.  The six-month test resulted in a finding that crisis response planning was more effective than a contract for safety in preventing suicide attempts.

And this is just one example of the work Shulkin referred to.

"We are trying new therapies and treatments," he wrote, "and I certainly hope that we can have a big impact on this problem."

Experts say that the challenge of veteran suicide must be addressed continually and that all existing base resources should be utilized to address the problem.

These websites may help a loved one understand the problem of suicide and offer help:,, or

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