Sunday, January 24, 2016

The False Narrative of the Number “22”

Veteran Suicide: The False Narrative of the Number “22”
Wes O’Donnell
January 22, 2016

There is a single number that defines the way many Americans think about military veterans. That number is 22 per day, as in, 22 veterans commit suicide daily in the United States. This number has been blasted across the outlets of the mainstream media as a rallying cry for the advocates of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans; the group that seems to be the most at risk. In addition, entire non-profit organizations with the number “22” in their name, have sprung up to assist this group and draw national attention to this crisis.

The problem is that the number 22 is built on a false narrative.

First, this number is based on a Veteran Affairs report from 2012 using the agencies’ own data and numbers reported from only 21 states from 1999 through 2011. Those states represent only 40% of the U.S. Population. The other states, including states with massive veteran communites, like California and Texas, don’t make their data available, and don’t report suicides to the VA. As you can deduce, we should be using the number “22” as a starting point or bare minimum.

Second, the entire generation of veterans that have been implicated in “22”, that is, the Post-9/11 or Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, are NOT the group that is committing suicide. In reality, only about 1 veteran from that group takes their own life daily, (which is still 1 too many). But if the media and charitable organizations are going to focus on this number, they need to make sure that they are targeting the right generation.

According to the report, the majority of veteran suicides are committed by Vietnam-Era veterans, yet the media is quiet on this point, much to their disgrace.
read more here

At least he's talking about it.

Just like NPR did The Number 22: Is There A 'False Narrative' For Vet Suicide? in October of 2015.

And LA Times did in 2013
A misunderstood statistic: 22 military veteran suicides a day
LA Times
By Alan Zarembo
December 20, 2013

Most of the 22 military veteran suicides that occur each day do not involve people who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The parents of Iraq war veteran Rusty McAlpin comfort each other near where their son killed himself with a handgun.

In most discussions of suicide and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — including the online buzz that followed publication of a Times analysis on how young California veterans die — one statistic gets repeated most: 22 veterans kill themselves each day.

That number comes from a study published in early 2013 by researchers at the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. But the recent wars were not the study's primary focus. In fact, they play a minor role in veteran suicides overall.

The VA researchers used death records from 21 states to come up with a 2010 national estimate for veterans of all ages. As a group, veterans are old. Military service being far rarer than it was in the days of the draft, more than 91% of the nation's 22 million veterans are at least 35 years old, and the overwhelming majority did not serve in the post-9/11 era.

Side note: Great choice of picture since I used it in this article back in 2014 plus a few others.


  1. Kathie, thanks for re-posting. We need to make this a mainstream issue and get veterans from all generations the engagement and treatment that they need. All the best, Wes O'Donnell, Army and Air Force Veteran 1997-2007

  2. Intent is the key issue, but enemies now have it so easy to ruin your name they don't care about your intent, they've become the judge and jury and they're going to hang you.


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