By Scott Knight
Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is an important day for every American and is intended to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love for their country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
This day of remembrance celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. Communities across the country plan events to honor those who have served and are currently serving. As we celebrate and recognize these brave men and women, we should also consider the struggles that they go through with mental illness.
Suicide is a national problem in the U.S. and a major concern for active-duty service members and military vets. Members of the military may experience a variety of difficult and traumatic events including combat, natural disasters, and physical assault. According to the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, there were 6,146 veteran suicide deaths in 2020. That is 31.7 deaths per 100,000. During that year, suicide was the second leading cause of death among veterans under age 45. The suicide rate for vets was 57% greater than for non-veteran U.S. adults.
Veterans can come home from service carrying a weight they did not go in with. Without the right help, that weight can seem like too much, leading some veterans to consider, or carry out, suicide.
Some of the warning signs vets exhibit include feelings of hopelessness, acting agitated, struggling with anxiety, insomnia, outburst of anger or rage, an increase in substance use or abuse, and isolating themselves from the people close to them.
Other factors related to the higher risk of suicide among veterans are related to undiagnosed or untreated conditions, such as PTSD or mood disorders, which can increase a person’s overall risk of suicide.
The VA offers a wide range of treatment programs for vets and their families. Also, “Vets for Warriors” is a peer support network with veterans answering the phone at 1-855-838-8255. Veterans in California can call the Veterans Crisis Line, 988, then press 1.
The Jason Foundation is another valuable resource for those struggling with suicidal ideation. Many times, a veteran will exhibit clear warning signs prior to an attempt. By knowing the warning signs, and knowing how to help, you could save a life. Visit www.jasonfoundation.com to learn more about suicide, the warning signs, and how you can help make a difference.