More veterans die by suicide than in battle


By Dr. Kevin Kelly, Ph.D.

Special to The PREVIEW

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the suicide rates among veterans have increased from 2005 to 2015. In 2015, an average of 20 veterans died by suicide each day — a figure that is remained largely unchanged since 2005. In 2015, veterans accounted for 14.3 percent of all deaths by suicide among U.S. adults and made up 8.3 percent of the U.S. adult population.

Combat veterans are particularly vulnerable to acute stress reactions, and after some time has passed, to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In combat situations, veterans have seen and experienced things that are very disorienting and may shatter our view of ourselves and our world.

One of the common characteristics of people who are thinking about suicide is a sense of hopelessness. The belief that things cannot improve or get better. In almost all cases, this is a belief that is not entirely accurate.

According to the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, some 54 percent of veterans who are treated for PTSD no longer have the diagnosis after treatment. Newer treatments involving controlled substances such as ketamine and MDMA (psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy) are showing promise for helping reduce the emotional impact of intrusive thoughts and memories.

People often wonder if they asked directly about someone’s thoughts about suicide, if such a discussion will “push” the person to take action against themselves. This turns out not to be the case. Often, people who are contemplating suicide have a part of them that would really like to feel hopeful and will appreciate someone caring enough to ask directly if that is what they are thinking about.

Giving away possessions and declining self-care are some of the nonverbal ways people communicate their sense of hopelessness. Other times, people will say things that may alert us to potential danger. “I can’t take this anymore” or “I don’t think anything can help” may signal that a person is feeling hopeless. Asking directly, “Are you thinking about harming yourself?” is often the beginning of a conversation that can lead to getting help for someone who is suffering.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out. You can contact any one of the following for help:

• Our local crisis line (Crisis Mental Health Services) at 247-5245.

• State crisis line at (884) 493-8255.

• Text “Talk” to 38255.

• National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

Veterans Crisis Line: (800) 273-8255, press “1.”

• Call 911.

• Go directly to the emergency department at Pagosa Springs Medical Center.