Friday, August 31, 2012
A total of 126 San Diego-area veterans attempted suicide and 22 of them succeeded in the fiscal year that ends next month, according to Veteran Affairs officials.
The data comes from the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System Suicide Prevention Program in advance of National Suicide Prevention Week, which runs Sept. 9-15.
San Diego County is home to roughly 30,000 veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it's those troops who are showing up in suicide statistics at a greater degree than others, according to the VA
Almost half of crisis calls received by the VA's suicide prevention program are people who have served since 9/11, officials said.
"When we began in 2007, all the calls were from older veterans,'' suicide prevention coordinator Paula Saltz said in a statement. "Now, almost half of the number of crisis calls we receive are from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans. Even with a greater number of younger veterans calling, suicide rates are still higher as a veteran gets older.''
Common reasons for suicide attempts are financial hardships, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental and physical battlefield injuries.
To cope with veterans' suicides, the VA recently hired 32 clinicians in San Diego to provide faster service for mental health appointments. It also introduced web camera mental health teleconferencing for patients who cannot make in-person appointments, and it is planning to open a 40-bed transitional housing center in Old Town early next year for veterans with mental health problems.