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Suicide Prevention

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 42,773 suicides in 2014 in the United States, or 117 suicides each day. About 18 percent of those who die by suicide are Veterans.

Veterans can be at risk for suicide for a variety of reasons. Some are coping with aging, stress, or lingering effects stemming from their military service that have never been addressed. Many have underlying mental health conditions or substance use disorders, in some cases aggravated by their military service, which increases their risk. Many recently discharged Veterans have difficulty with personal relationships or their transition back to civilian life.

VA’s Major Suicide Prevention Accomplishments:

• 2007: Established a Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention in Canandaigua, New York
• 2012:  Completed a report providing data on suicides and attempted suicides among Veterans
        o Found that the experience of killing in war was strongly associated with thoughts of suicide
• 2016:  Determined that Veterans receiving high doses of opioid painkillers were more than twice as likely to die by suicide than those receiving low doses
        o Announced a series of actions to reduce Veteran suicide, including using data on suicide attempts and overdoses to guide prevention strategies
        o Launched the REACH VET program, which analyzes existing data to identify Veterans at a statistically elevated risk for suicide and allows VA to provide them with pre-emptive care and support

Learn more..

Below is a news story that illustrates VA’s commitment to advancing technology and research initiatives to benefit our nation’s Veterans.

Dr. Sara Landes, a psychologist at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, is leading a study to examine the implementation of REACH VET. (Photo by Jeff Bowen)Dr. Sara Landes, a psychologist at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, is leading a study to examine the implementation of REACH VET. (Photo by Jeff Bowen)

Crisis prevention

Devising ways to prevent Veteran suicides is front and center on the minds of VA officials. An average of 20 Veterans a day are taking their own lives, a rate that has been holding steady in recent years. Studies have shown that former service members are more likely than non-Veterans to commit suicide.

One of VA’s prevention efforts is an outreach program aimed at predicting who may be at highest risk for suicide and intervening before a suicide occurs.

The program is REACH VET, or Recovery Engagement and Coordination for Health – Veterans Enhanced Treatment. It uses predictive modeling and medical record data to identify Veterans at highest risk for suicide. The model includes such variables as demographics, use of VA services, and medications. Once a Veteran is identified, his or her VA mental health specialist or clinician checks on the Veteran’s well-being and reviews that person’s treatment plan to determine if enhanced care is needed.  Read more..

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