VA releases national suicide data report

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently released findings from its most recent analysis of veteran suicide data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
This report yields several important insights:
• Suicide rates increased for both veterans and non-veterans, underscoring the fact that suicide is a national public health concern that affects people everywhere.
• The average number of veterans who died by suicide each day remained unchanged at 20.
• The suicide rate increased faster among veterans who had not recently used Veterans Health Administration health care than among those who had.
The report, known as “VA National Suicide Data Report 2005-2015,” is available at https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/Suicide-Prevention-Data.asp.
The analysis is part of the VA’s ongoing examination of more than 55 million civilian and veteran death records that are being used to evaluate and improve VA’s Suicide Prevention Program.
Data from this report were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Death Index and then linked to both VA and Department of Defense (DoD) data.
The VA is committed to publishing the most accurate suicide data possible. The CDC has 2016 data, but the VA works with both the CDC and DoD to analyze millions of records and data sources to produce an analysis of suicide deaths for all known veterans. This collaboration adds a layer of complexity to the analysis process, thus making 2015 the most current year for which VA is able to publish complete veteran suicide data.
The VA is working with the CDC and the DoD to innovate and refine the data analysis and plans to publish 2016 veteran suicide data in fall 2018.
The report includes suicide rates from 2005 to 2015 for both veteran and non-veteran populations segmented by age, race and gender, and analyzes veteran rates based on service branch and era, suicide method and suicide risk factors. These data inform the ongoing work of the VA and its partners to prevent suicide and expand the network of support for veterans.
“Suicide remains a top clinical priority,” said Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke. “One life lost to suicide is one too many. Suicide is a serious public health concern in the veteran population and across all communities nationwide. These data offer important insights to help VA to build effective networks of support, communication and care that reach veterans where they live and thrive.”
Suicide is a complex issue and is influenced by a multitude of intersecting factors that can increase or decrease suicide risk. The VA Suicide Prevention Program’s public health approach addresses the risk factors associated with suicidal behavior — such as a prior suicide attempt, stressful life events or the availability of lethal means — while promoting the protective factors that can offset risk — such as positive coping skills, feeling connected to other people and access to mental health care.
Data form an integral part of the VA’s public health strategy and enable VA to tailor research-backed suicide-prevention initiatives to reach diverse groups across the veteran population.
In the years since these data were captured, the VA has undertaken substantial suicide-prevention efforts, including:
• Expansion of the Veterans Crisis Line.
• Creation of new cross-sector partnerships.
• Implementation of the joint action plan for supporting veterans during their transition from uniformed service to civilian life.
• Launch of SAVE online suicide prevention training.
• Development of the forthcoming national strategy for preventing veteran suicide.
Learn more about the VA’s suicide-prevention resources and programs at www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/.
Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a veteran in crisis, should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at (800) 273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or send a text message to 838255.
Services available for local veterans
Pine Ridge Extended Care Center is VA-certified, which means there are services available for our local veterans. These services have eligibility requirements and specific programs. For more information, please contact this office or Pine Ridge.
For more information
The office of the Archuleta County veterans service officer (VSO) provides assistance to qualified military veterans, and their families, or a veteran’s survivors, in applying to and in obtaining VA program assistance, benefits and claims.
This assistance is provided within the guidelines, policies and procedures established by the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. This is a mandated program of the state of Colorado.
For further information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard.
The best way to contact me is to set up an appointment, for either at your home or in the office, so I can schedule a specific time in order to answer and assist each veteran in Archuleta County.
The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590 and email is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Bring a DD Form 214 (discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office.
Always leave me a message and phone number to contact you.
Veterans’ groups
The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:
• American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.
• American Legion Post 108 Ladies Auxiliary: second Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.
• Veterans for Veterans: Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.
• Combat Veterans PTSD Group: Every other Tuesday at noon, Community United Methodist Church, 434 Lewis St. Contact Kevin Kelly at (505) 699-0824.
• Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: First and third Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., Dr. Sharon Carter’s office. Contact Charlotte at 903-9690.
Important numbers
• 799-VETS, www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.
• Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.
• Farmington VA Center: (505) 326-4383.
• VAMC Albuquerque, N.M.: (800) 465-8262.
• VAMC Albuquerque, N.M., emergency notification: (800) 465-8262, ext. 5739.
• The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online or text 838255.

This story was posted on July 4, 2018.