September is National Suicide Awareness Month, a period in which individuals are reminded to reach out to those who are at risk of suicide. During this month, mental health professionals and advocates work to prevent suicide, one conversation at a time. This is important work, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. And since veterans face trauma regularly, suicide statistics for them can look even worse, especially veteran suicides per day.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that there are an average of 20 veteran suicides per day, and suicide among veterans account for about 14% of all suicides in the U.S. yearly. The correlation between veterans and suicide is strong enough that veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide compared to those who did not serve in the military.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs honors National Suicide Prevention Month as a way to raise awareness about this mental health issue that takes the lives of hundreds of veterans each year in Florida alone. These statistics are shocking, considering that suicide can be prevented with enough awareness and the right resources for those struggling. So why do veterans commit suicide?
Causes of Veteran Suicides
There are countless factors that contribute to the increasing military suicide rate. Things like combat exposure, injury, struggling to return to civilian life, and military sexual trauma all add to the risk of self-harm and committing suicide. For many people, this leads to coping with drugs or alcohol, which only increases veteran suicide risk.
Substance abuse is deeply connected to higher suicide rates and is one of the major causes of veteran suicides, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Substance use and co-occurring disorders (i.e., mental health and addiction issues that develop together) are particularly common struggles for veterans, and these can be deadly when left untreated.
A large portion of veterans experience all of these difficulties, and more, as a result of the nature of their careers. In the course of their military service, veterans sacrifice their own freedoms and well-being in order to better serve their country. Even after separating from the service, many veterans find themselves struggling to find motivation and purpose in their lives. This is exactly why having resources in place for veterans to seek preventative and active mental health care is so essential in lowering the veteran suicides per day rate.
How to Lower the Veteran Suicides Per Day Rate
Having the right resources is the most vital piece in giving emotional support to veterans. Learning the signs of mental health issues in veterans, and what resources exist to help veterans struggling with suicidal ideation, is the best thing you can do to help veterans close to you, whether you’re a civilian or a fellow military servicemember.
Know the Signs of Veteran Suicide
Knowing the signs of mental health issues like PTSD or substance abuse that indicate a risk of suicide in yourself or another veteran can be challenging. If yourself, a friend, or a loved one who previously served in the military are struggling with suicidal ideation, it can be a difficult subject to broach. Keeping an eye out for the following mood or behavioral changes can help you identify those in need before they reach a tipping point.
- Feelings of hopelessness, depression, and a lack of motivation or enjoyment for the things in their day-to-day life
- A lowered standard of daily hygiene (e.g., not shaving, showering, or otherwise taking care of their body)
- Making risky, impulsive decisions, especially those that jeopardize their career, personal relationships, or physical well-being
- New or worsening mental illness symptoms, like paranoia, anxiety, feelings of persecution, hallucinations, or delusions
- Uncharacteristic mood swings, irritability, or aggression at seemingly small things
- Misuse of drugs, whether illicit or prescribed, such as alcohol, painkillers, or anti-anxiety medications, in order to deal with emotional stress
The best way to help lower the veteran suicides per day rate is to be aware of the warning signs of veteran suicide. Always seek help right away if you or someone you know is currently unsafe.
Suicide Prevention Organizations
For veterans contemplating suicide and who are in immediate need of help, there are several veterans suicide hotlines operated by nonprofit charities, such as the Veterans Crisis Line or the Stop Veteran Suicide hotline. Many of these hotlines are staffed by veterans or mental health care professionals who are trained in helping veterans in times of need. Any information shared with them is confidential.
Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Veterans Crisis Line work to promote suicide prevention all year round. To help raise awareness, suicide prevention organizations also provide a place to share resources and stories about the impact of suicide. The more people who raise awareness about mental health struggles and feel comfortable talking about suicide, the less of a stigma there will be surrounding this deadly issue.
Even if you don’t consider yourself or somebody close to you to be at immediate risk of suicide, using these resources can help veterans understand that there are many others out there going through the same struggle they are, and help them to open up and confront the issues that they are facing. In this way, calling a veteran suicide hotline can actively help lower the veteran suicides per day rate.
Finding Mental Health Treatment for Veterans in Florida
Ultimately, the only way to truly prevent suicide is to treat the underlying issues. Luckily, there are many different therapeutic approaches that can help you with any mental health struggle you experience.
Veteran-friendly services such as safe drug and alcohol detox, individual therapy, group and family counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and job preparedness training are invaluable resources you have at your fingertips to treat the challenges of struggling with mental and emotional stress for veterans.
At Heroes’ Mile in DeLand, Florida, we have an extensive alumni network of veterans going through the struggles of adapting to civilian life while staying healthy and motivated. While all of September is National Suicide Prevention Month, there are many more ways that we can promote suicide prevention in order to save lives each and every day. After all, preventing suicide starts with simply talking about suicide.
We can reduce the risk of suicide in veterans and in all of our communities if we listen, talk, and act fast. At Heroes’ Mile, we are staffed by real veterans who know what you’re dealing with. We are here to talk through the fears and the struggles without judgement. Most importantly, we are here to provide you a safe environment to heal on all levels.
Are you or a loved one in need of help?