Today, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, the former Army chief of staff, said the suicide rate for men aged 18-29 who have been discharged had gone up by 26% from 2005-07.
At a suicide prevention conference, Shinseki said: “As I’ve often asked, mostly of myself, but also of others from time to time, why do we know so much about suicides but so little about how to prevent them?”
“Of the more than 30,000 suicides in this country each year, fully 20% of them are acts by veterans,” Shinseki said.
“That means on average 18 veterans commit suicide each day. Five of those veterans are under our care at VA. So losing five veterans who are in treatment every month, and then not having a shot at the other 13 who for some reason haven’t come under our care, means that we have a lot of work to do.”
Shinseki continued: “We must build and maintain a strong support system, one in which everyone has a role, where we collectively assume ownership of the problem. It’s not someone else’s problem. It’s our problem.”
“It doesn’t matter whether there’s a uniform or not,” Shinseki said. “It’s our problem. we own it. I think the sense of ownership is a critical aspect of the solution, increasing the level of awareness throughout our communities.”
Rep. Michael McMahon (D-N.Y.), a co-founder of the Congressional Invisible Wounds Caucus, said the VA and the Pentagon should provide the staff and funding for the psychological screening of all troops returning from combat zones.
“Evidently, the paper questionnaires currently in use simply do not suffice,” McMahon said. “How many more young men and women must die before we provide the necessary mental health care?”