Saturday, February 2, 2013

Suicide on the Rise: Veterans and General Public

More Vets Killing Themselves:

Every day about 22 veterans in the United States kill themselves, a rate that is about 20 percent higher than the Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2007 estimate, according to a two-year study by a VA researcher.

The VA study indicates that more than two-thirds of the veterans who commit suicide are 50 or older, suggesting that the increase in veterans’ suicides is not primarily driven by those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There is a perception that we have a veterans’ suicide epidemic on our hands. I don’t think that is true,” said Robert Bossarte, an epidemiologist with the VA who did the study. “The rate is going up in the country, and veterans are a part of it.” The number of suicides overall in the United States increased by nearly 11 percent between 2007 and 2010, the study says.
The Increases Are in the General Population Too:
The report, based on the most extensive data the department has ever collected on suicide, found that the number of suicides among veterans reached 22 a day in 2010, the most recent year available.

That was up by 22 percent from 2007, when the daily number was 18. But it is only 10 percent higher than in 1999, according to the report. Department officials described the numbers as “relatively stable” over the decade. 

In the same 12-year period, the total number of suicides in the country rose steadily to an estimated 105 a day in 2010, up from 80 in 1999, a 31 percent increase.
Of course, the problem with reporting on incidents and not rates, is that it doesn't take into account the population increases in both the general population and the veteran population during the same 12 year period.
The new report does not provide a suicide rate for veterans, because the department is still refining that number, Dr. Kemp said. But she acknowledged that the rate was higher than for the general population, which is 12.4 suicides per 100,000 people. 

Among the report’s other important findings was that male veterans who commit suicide tend to be older than nonveteran male suicides, with the largest number of veterans’ suicides occurring among men between 50 and 59. Dr. Kemp said the department intended to increase outreach to that age group. 
It all goes back to Durkheim. For veterans, the connection between leaving the highly structured and integrated world of the military for the unmoored streets of society definitely increases anomie. Unemployment, a higher problem among veterans than the general population (12%-15% v. 7.8% gen pop), also increases anomie and suicide.

But sustained unemployment in the general population, the likes of which we've seen the past 4-5 years (and the likes of which we haven't seen since the 1930's), is also starting to take its toll on Americans as well. Fundamentally, work is more than economic sustenance: it's a form of social control; it's an integrating, regulating factor in most people's lives. 

Mix it all together (economic disaster, the ending of two wars), the problem of suicide is getting worse every day in the U.S. The national shame of veterans suicide is becoming a general public health epidemic.

While our national "leaders" dither over imaginary "fiscal cliffs" and other forms of economic stupid, the streets fill with the blood of the unregulated, unintegrated and unemployed.

Bravo, America.

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