walk VA suicide prevention saving more lives

Veteran Ramon Sandoval walks across the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, California on September 15, 2016, where veterans began a 3-day campaign yesterday to bring awareness to military suicide. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

By Matt Saintsing

It’s no secret that suicide among veterans is a major problem. 20 veterans a day taking their own life, and it seems like no progress is ever being made. But seeking help at the VA can’t hurt, and in fact, it is helping.

Suicide prevention is the top clinical priority for the VA. And while suicide is part of a larger American crisis, VA Secretary David Shulkin says “Suicide rates are increasing close to 24 percent over the past 15 years in the general population, but increasing faster in the veteran population.”

But the VA is having a positive effect.

Vets that go to the VA are less likely to commit suicide than those who don’t. While veteran suicide is still rising, it is rising slower for those who use some of the services and programs offered by the VA. Veterans who don’t use the VA experience a whopping 38 percent increase for suicide—more than seven times than those that do.

For women vets, the evidence couldn’t be clearer: Those who don’t use the VA have seen an 81.6 percent increase in suicide, but those who do have actually seen a small decrease.

“That is pretty dramatic,” said Shulkin. “If there was a drug that was that effective, that would be a blockbuster.”

Shulkin credits some VA programs like the Veterans Crisis Line for this progress. To date, the crisis line has responded to over three million calls, and they have kept up with the high volume by adding over 300 crisis line responders.

It wasn’t always so efficient. In January, almost one-third of all calls to the Veterans Crisis Line couldn’t get through, but today, that number is less than 1 percent—nearly everyone that calls gets the help they need.

So, while the VA is nowhere near where they want to be, or should be, vets that show up at the VA are less likely to take their own life.

If you or someone you know is a veteran in crisis, you can always call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 to talk to a professional. You can also text 838255 to chat.

Connect: @MattBSaintsing | Matt@ConnectingVets.com

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