Sun-News Editorial Board
Published 9:08 AM EST Nov 11, 2018
The War at Home Memorial is different from the other monuments we have erected over the years to honor the brave men and women who have fought in the armed services for our country.
It consists of 20 steel plates, with the likeness of a real American veteran cut in the middle. Each plate represents the 20 men and women who take their own lives each day due to the impacts of post traumatic stress disorder caused by trauma experienced in combat.
According to the VA National Suicide Data Report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which was updated in September 2018, there have been more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year, from 2008 to 2016. While the suicide rate for older veterans has stayed the same, the rate for those age 18 to 34 has increased substantially.
In 2016, the suicide rate for veterans was 1.5 times greater than for non-veterans.
“To prevent veteran suicide, we must help reduce veterans’ risk for suicide before they reach a crisis point and support those veterans who are in crisis,” the report said. “This requires the expansion of treatment and prevention services and a continued focus on innovative crisis intervention services. It also requires effective networks of support, communication, and care across the communities where veterans live and work.”
The National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide calls for a 15-step approach to integrate suicide prevention services into a wide range of settings, develop new programs to promote wellness among veterans, promote suicide prevention as a core component of health care services and implement effective clinical and professional practices for identifying and treating veterans who are at risk of suicidal behaviors.
“VA has made great strides in veteran suicide prevention, especially in crisis intervention.” said Dr. David Carroll, executive director for the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “But if we are going to end veteran suicide, then we must continuously work to prevent it before veterans reach a crisis point. This will require VA to expand our treatment and prevention efforts to address issues that arise well before a suicidal crisis, while also continuing to expand our crisis intervention services.”
Suicide is a public health challenge for our entire nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. overall, and is second leading cause among those age 10 to 34.
But, the problem is even greater among veterans, and so is our responsibility to do something about it.
We can see the physical wounds suffered in war, and all of us understand our obligation to help heal those wounds, just as the wounded soldiers all understands the need to seek treatment and help. Mental wounds are not as visible, but our obligation to help heal those wounds is just as great. And, so is the need for the wounded soldier to seek treatment.
It is unacceptable that 20 veterans a day are lost to suicide. These are men and women who have survived the horrors of war and have made it safely home, only to have those horrors come home with them.
This Veteran’s Day we should make a vow as a nation to dramatically reduce that number. One veteran lost each day to suicide is too many. Twenty a day is intolerable. We must do better.
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