US veterans’ suicide rates highest in West, rural areas: Benjamin Brown

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“The Western U.S. and rural areas have the highest rates of suicides among military veterans, according to data released Friday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
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The findings examined veterans’ suicides state-by-state, and determined New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Montana represent the highest rate at 60 per 100,000 individuals – nearly double the national rate of 38.4.
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Many veterans in those states must drive 70 miles or more to find the nearest VA medical center.
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Regions in the United Sates outside the West, which had an overall suicide rate of 45.5, were all below the national rate.
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Kentucky, West Virginia and Oklahoma also had high veteran suicide rates, which can be attributed to greater prescription drug use, particularly opioids. Veterans who received higher doses of opioid painkillers were twice as likely to die by suicide, compared to those who received minimal doses, according to a VA study conducted last year.
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Gender also played a key role in the most recent VA report. Women veterans had a suicide rate 2.5 times greater than their civilian counterpart, with the risk 19 percent higher among male veterans compared to civilians.
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Older veterans at risk
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The majority of military suicides are among elderly veterans, with roughly 65 percent of cases among those 50 or older.
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Rajeev Ramchand, an epidemiologist who studies suicide for the Rand Corp., pointed out the significance of the report, which indicated “no state is immune.” He added that social isolation, limited health care access, gun ownership and opioids were likely contributing factors in suicide among veterans.
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“This requires closer investigation into why suicide rates by veteran status are higher, including the role that opiates play,” Ramchand told the Associated Press.
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The VA’s latest report breaks down national figures released last year, which determined 20 veterans commit suicide each day, as the agency looks for ways to increase suicide prevention efforts.
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“These findings are deeply concerning, which is why I made suicide prevention my top clinical priority,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin, reported AP. “This is a national public health issue.”
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2 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve spent many years at VA hospitals, bringing my Dad to appointments and medical care. He got excellent treatment. They work hard at the VA but have a difficult road. Some changes in the military are for the better such as there is now more open mention of PTSD and depression. There are more resources to get closer to the root of problems. Still, there are many who have resisted such care and turn to drugs – with or without a prescription. I saw it all the time with the vets lined up at the doors trying to get more meds.
    There’s still much work to be done.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. The military faces a complex situation. Now we know that explosions, IED’S can cause parts of the brain to turn to gray dust. These are physical injuries in top of trauma, PTSD. We would never accept twenty dead in an active battlefield everyday for two years.

    Why is this acceptable or not a number one priority of all in America?

    Neuroscience and research are making discoveries about trauma and the mind from growing neurons in the amygdala to many parts of the brain shutting down during calm times.
    We are understanding how the body stores trauma and how we lose any sense of our bodies, becoming numb and disconnected.
    Many of these behaviors have saved us during our abuse but shut down our creative and free parts of our being.
    Under constant threat, under survival mode we lose touch with our bodies.

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