Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Dawn Miller, is Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the Veterans Administration of San Diego
Richard is a U.S. Army veteran of deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan, who has survived suicidal depression with the help of the VA.
VA Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1)
More U.S. soliders have died by committing suicide this year than have died on the battlefield. In the first 155 days of 2012, 154 active duty troops committed suicide--50 percent more than the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year.
Until now, the majority of veterans who have committed suicide in San Diego have been from the Vietnam War. But data from the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System Suicide Prevention Program suggests that could be changing.
Almost half of crisis calls received by the VA's suicide prevention program are from people who have served since 9/11, VA officials said.
San Diego County is home to roughly 30,000 veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. A total of 126 San Diego-area veterans attempted suicide and 22 of them succeeded in the current fiscal year that ends in September, according to the VA.
Dawn Miller, a suicide prevention coordinator for the Veterans Administration of San Diego, told KPBS Midday Edition that each day, her organization has about 115 veterans on its "high risk list."
She said the latest numbers show we need to focus on recently returning veterans.
Richard, a U.S. Army veteran of deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said he has survived suicidal depression with the help of the VA. He is 26 now and was 20 at the time of his first deployment.
He told KPBS he first experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after returning from his first deployment. He said he "kept everything to myself" for many years before seeking help.
"I felt like my civilian friends and my family didn't really understand what I went through," he said. "I found myself holding back a lot of information to spare them the gruesome details and to spare myself from reliving them."
Richard turned to the VA for help three weeks ago after attempting suicide and being saved by a roommate. That roommate asked him if he wanted to go to the VA hospital and Richard agreed.
"I felt like admitting I had a problem, if I said that out loud, then it would be true," he said.
At the VA, Richard said doctors listened to him and didn't judge him.
"They treated me like a person instead of just another patient," he said.
More information on warning signs of suicide and what to do if you are concerned about yourself or someone else is available here.
Claire Trageser contributed to this report.