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VA Suicide Data Reveals Troubling Trends In California

Chaplains discuss their history and experiences working with suicide cases at...

Credit: Defense of Department

Above: Chaplains discuss their history and experiences working with suicide cases at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 11, 2015.

New Veterans Affairs data shows the suicide rate among California veterans is just under the national average, but it still shows troubling trends for veterans.

The Veterans Health Administration recently released national data showing 29.7 out of 100,000 veterans commit suicide. New data shows in California, the suicide rate is slightly lower — 28.8 — among veterans. It is also lower in most age groups in California.

Some parts of the country still feel lingering stress from the great recession, said Dr. Neal Doran, director of Clinical Improvement Mental Health at VA San Diego.

“Things in California are perhaps a bit better economically. You might have seen the overall rate for California is better than the national average,” he said.

Veterans commit suicide at a much higher rate than the national average. Guns remain the preferred method. Nationally, 68 percent of veteran suicides involved a firearm. In California, 55 percent of veterans used a gun. Statewide, only 40 percent of Californians used that method.

The VA offers gun locks and counsels patients to consider turning over their guns to someone else, he said.

“It just adds that extra moment to think and maybe stop themselves or for somebody else to intervene,” Doran said.

The latest data shows the trend of suicide increasingly concentrated in younger veterans, 18 to 34 years old. The VA data is from 2015. That year the suicide rate among veterans leveled-off at a 10-year high.

VA suicide data shows California slightly ahead of the curve, but the suicide rate among veterans remains high both in the state and around the country.

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Photo of Steve Walsh

Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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