New VA suicide data is disturbing... and disturbingly old

AMVETS concerned about time lag

Eric Dehm
September 27, 2018 - 10:45 am

Photo courtesy AMVETS

The most important and glaring info we can draw from the latest suicide data emanating from the VA is clearly the suicide rate among younger vets, aged 18-34, has increased ten percent. But an aspect that may be missed at first glance is that this "new" data is actually quite old. 

The data in the report is from 2016, while a quick glance at the calendar tells us that we're in the final quarter of 2018. 

"We're talking about a couple years ago," AMVETS Chief Strategy Officer Sherman Gillums said during an appearance on the Morning Briefing radio show. "It bothers me that there's a lag effect to this information because we want to be as proactive as we can when it comes to veteran suicide, but it's a little hard to do that when we're talking in 2018 about what was happening in 2016."

Despite the frustration, and even without the most up to date data, Gillums says the work must continue. If it doesn't, there's no chance of reversing the troubling trend that negatively affects all generations of veterans and, despite the increase in programs looking to combat the epidemic, now sees the rate among younger vets surpassing that of previous generations for the first time.

While it might seem that things are moving the wrong way, Gillums points to the continued implementation of new and better programs like AMVETS own HEAL team as evidence of opening up new battlefronts in the fight against the suicide scourge. The retired Marine says he believes it will pay off in the future, and has a message for anyone who sees the most recent data and says this is a war we can't win. 

"Do you know any veterans? It's that one individual that you know that might be the next one," he said. "Do you want us (veterans) to succesfully help him or her get through a crisis or not? Are you just going to throw them away? It doesn't matter how many, what matters is the one in front of you."

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