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Suicide Rate Among Younger Vets Jumps In Latest VA Report

VA Suicide Hotline is available for veterans, Sept. 26,2017.

Credit: Department of Defense

Above: VA Suicide Hotline is available for veterans, Sept. 26,2017.

A new report from the Veterans Health Administration says the overall suicide rate among veterans dipped slightly in 2016. But for younger veterans in the 18-34 age group, the rate jumped by 10 percent from the previous year.

“I believe with this unique group, 18- to 34-year olds, is that they are possibly struggling with the transition from active duty to civilian life,” said Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director of the VA Suicide Prevention Office.

In 2015, the VA recorded a rate of 40.4 suicide deaths per 100,000 veterans aged 18-34. In 2015, that number went to 45 per 100,000.

On average, 20 veterans a day commit suicide in the U.S.

RELATED: A Vet’s Suicide Pushes The VA To Do Better

In an era when fewer veterans are leaving the service with combat experience, the VA is searching for possible causes for the rise in suicides. Franklin said focus had been on lowering unemployment among this group.

“But we’re wondering if we’ve done enough to prepare them to be socially ready," she said. "We can always do more to prepare them to fit in, in communities when they leave the military. And they’re not working on military bases and stations. Where they may have to work harder to meet friends and fit in.”

In 2016, veterans had a suicide rate 1.5 times greater than non-veteran adults, when adjusting for age and gender. The suicide rate also increased among female veterans.

Firearms are overwhelmingly the method of choice among all veterans. A firearm was used in nearly 70 percent of veteran suicides.

The VA says that while the overall suicide rate among veterans dipped slightly in 2016, it jumped by 10 percent for younger veterans.


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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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