By Patricia Kime
February 4, 2016
“In recent years, the suicide rate has risen steadily for the general population, but not veterans in the VA system. For veterans in our care, rates have remained stable, maybe even declined slightly, which tells us that treatment works," McDonald said.
Susan Selke, mother of Marine veteran Clay Hunt who committed suicide due to PTSD, testifies as Jean Somers, whose son Daniel took his own life, listens at a Capitol Hill hearing in 2014. Selke and Summers spoke at a Washington conference on the issue of veterans suicides on Feb. 3, 2016.The Veterans Affairs Department is ratcheting up efforts to address the high rate of suicide among veterans, bringing in mental health experts, advocates and affected families to formulate an “action plan” in the coming months to reduce these preventable deaths.
(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin said Tuesday that suicide reduction is one of his top priorities, and he called on experts to help the department establish prevention initiatives aimed at getting veterans into treatment.
“This is really one of our top priority issues for VA,” Shulkin said. “Seeing the number of suicides that occur every day is simply not acceptable.”
The VA hosted a Veterans Suicide Summit in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to jump-start the effort, drawing behavioral health providers, veterans service organizations, Defense Department personnel and veterans who have attempted suicide, as well as parents of troops who have died.
The VA estimated in 2012 that 22 veterans die each day by suicide, but the number is an extrapolation derived from 1999-2011 data from 21 states, and both the VA and advocacy groups say it should be interpreted with caution.
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