(October 31, 2017) Nearly 60 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America members know a post-9/11 service member who has died by suicide, a figure that has jumped about 20 percent since 2014 in the association’s annual membership survey.
About 5 percent of the roughly 4,300 members surveyed had suicidal thoughts prior to joining the military. That number spiked to 37 percent when asked if they had those thoughts after joining. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents know a post-9/11 veteran who has died by suicide.
“The trend lines are going up, which clearly indicates how much work we have to do in this area,” Jackie Maffucci, the IAVA research director, told Military Times. Maffucci called it a “dire situation.”
Similar concerns have surfaced in previous IAVA surveys, keeping suicide prevention a key policy focus for the association
NGAUS has long supported greater access to mental-health care as a way to limit suicides in the uniformed ranks. The association backs the CARE for Reservists Act introduced by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., which would ease access for reserve-component members to counseling at Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Centers and as outpatient care.
In the 2014 IAVA survey, about 40 percent knew a post-9/11 veteran who had died by suicide and 47 percent knew someone who had attempted to take their own life. Both numbers have jumped by about 20 percent in this year’s survey.
More than half of the respondents had someone close to them recommend they seek care, and 80 percent sought help as a result.
“It really highlights the role of families and their support system in helping individuals either recognize they have a problem or take that step and walk through the doors,” she said. “And that is such a challenge for so many veterans.”
Only 16 percent of those surveyed believe troops and veterans are getting the care they need for mental-health injuries, citing the stigma of seeking help as the top reason for not getting care.
Veterans dealing with mental-health issues can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (select option 1 for a VA staffer). Veterans, troops or their family members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.