VA report finds veteran suicides on the rise

In this FILE photo a look at a Veterans Clinic in the United States.
In this FILE photo a look at a Veterans Clinic in the United States. (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) – The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department has released a new report showing an increase in the suicide rate of veterans across the country.

The Department examined over 55 million veterans records, across every state, between 1979 and 2014.

According to the report, which was released Wednesday, veteran suicides increased 32 percent between 2001 and 2014. Adult civilian suicides increased 23 percent in that same time frame.

In 2014, veterans accounted for 18 percent of all adult suicides in the United States, with an average of 20 veteran suicides per day.

Mental health and substance abuse disorders also increased between 2001 and 2014, from 27 percent to 40 percent. However, suicide among veterans with those disorders actually decreased.

"The report, in itself, is nothing new. The information is very well publicized. The point it was trying to make is that all veterans are a priority, regardless of whether or not they're engaged in VA healthcare," said Andrea Comp, Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Lebanon VA Medical Center. "At any given time, only 40 percent of all veterans actually utilize VA services. Some of the rates indicated that only six of the 20 suicides per day for veterans were veterans that actually utilized VA services. So, there may be a disparity in people knowing if they're eligible for services."

In response to the growing numbers of suicides, the VA is expanding its Veterans Crisis Line, hiring 60 new suicide intervention responders and counselors. They're also using telephone coaching to help families urge someone to reach out for help, and are utilizing analytics to identify veterans most at risk.