Wingman, battle buddy, shipmate. These terms are used to describe the buddy system in the military. Looking out for the person beside you is one of the very first things taught to a young enlistee. Sadly, in suicide prevention, we are failing our buddies.
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, data shows that there is an average of 950 suicide attempts each month by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment. At least 7 percent of the attempts are successful, and 11 percent of those who don’t succeed on the first attempt try again within nine months.
That averages out to 18 veteran suicides a day, five of those by veterans who are currently receiving treatment. Though screening programs are in place to identify those with problems, and special efforts are made to track those considered at high risk, we as friends and family have to make sure that our loved ones are actually receiving the treatments available.
Suicide attempts by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans remains a key area of concern. VA statistics show that there were 1,621 suicide attempts by men and 247 by women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, with 94 men and four women dying.
The VA’s suicide hotline has been receiving about 10,000 calls a month from current and former service members. If you or someone you know could use these services, the number is 1-800-273-8255. Service members and veterans should push 1 for veterans’ services.
Photo thanks to Scott* under creative commons license on Flickr.