The suicide rate among young male veterans who served during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan reached a record high in 2006, the latest year for which records are available, according to data released on Tuesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs, USA Today reports.
According to the data, the suicide rate among male veterans ages 18 to 29 who use VA services increased to 46 suicides per 100,000 in 2006, compared with a rate of 20 per 100,000 among male civilians in the same age group. The data also indicate that 141 male veterans who left the military after Sept. 11, 2001, committed suicide between 2002 and 2005, compared with 113 in 2006. The data did not specify the number of those 113 veterans who were in combat.
VA released the data in conjunction with a study conducted by a committee panel of mental health experts appointed by VA Secretary James Peake from the Army, the Department of Defense, CDC and NIH. In a statement, Peake said that VA will follow the recommendations issued by the panel to help reduce the number of suicides among veterans. The panel recommends that VA:
- Design a study that identifies suicide risks among veterans;
- Increase efforts to screen veterans with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder for suicide risk; and
- Improve efforts to prescribe appropriate medications to treat depression, suicidal behavior and PTSD among veterans.
Peake said that VA will design such a study in 30 days and that the department will begin a trial system to screen veterans for suicide risk on Oct. 1.
Dave Autry, a spokesperson for the Disabled American Veterans, said, "We've been telling Congress and the (VA) for a long time that what we have seen are increasing numbers of mental health issues that have not been adequately addressed" (Zoroya, USA Today, 9/9).