September is suicide prevention month, and although suicide afflicts every demographic in the country, there is one group of people that are disproportionately affected; veterans.
A study that appeared in the February 2015 issue of The Annals of Epidemiology discovered that veterans took their own lives at a rate of 29.5 per 100,000, nearly twice the national suicide rate.
It is common wisdom that men who saw combat are the most at risk, but this is not actually accurate. Veterans who were never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan were 16 percent more likely to commit suicide than veterans who saw combat, according to the study cited above. Furthermore, female veterans were twice as likely to take their own lives than women who had never served. The veterans in your life may need help even if they do not fit the stereotypical mold.
HOW TO HELP
Thankfully, research suggests that you can help prevent veteran suicide by reaching out to those who may be in need. The first and perhaps most important thing you can do is learn the signs that somebody might be in trouble. If you feel that your friend may be at risk, you can point them toward valuable resources such as the Veteran Crisis Line to ensure that they get the help they need before it is too late.
You can also help by showing veterans that you value both their service and their humanity. It does not require a massive time commitment, as simple acts such as sending a quick text or emailing a friend are enough to show someone that they are cared for. These tasks take no longer than a minute, proving that everyone can help reduce the suicide rate for veterans.
If you have a little bit more time available each week, meeting with your veteran associates can be a great way to strengthen the bond between you. Consider bringing them a home-cooked meal, getting together for coffee, dropping by their place, or even having a lengthy phone conversation. Sending someone you care for a care package is also a great way to show them how much they mean to you. These simple acts take no longer than an hour and help veterans understand that they would be missed by many if they did something regrettable, encouraging them to seek help rather than make a rash decision in the moment.
There is also nothing wrong with making more of a time commitment if you can swing it. Heading to the gym together on a weekly basis can help veterans have an event to look forward to, improving their lives. You can also share an experience by trying something new together, or even volunteering for a worthy cause. The options are limitless!
You can help by volunteering to handle mundane tasks for the veterans in your life as well. Offer to babysit so that they can get a night to recharge, or run simple errands so they don’t have to worry about them. These acts may seem small, but the effect they can have on mental well being is pronounced.
The elevated veteran suicide rate is not a new phenomenon, as Vietnam-era veterans displayed elevated suicide rates only if they were wounded in battle or suffering from PTSD. These seemingly obvious risk factors are no longer the indicators they once were, so you should acknowledge the veterans in your life regularly to ensure that they do not make a life-ending mistake.
Our estate planning attorneys are committed to helping the veterans of our community. If you have a story relating to veterans that you would like us to cover on our blog, please contact us.