In September , the Department of Veterans Affairs released its annual suicide prevention report. He noted that in 2020, 6,146 seniors, or more than 16 seniors per day, committed suicide.
Days before the VA report was released, the nonprofit American Warrior Partnership released disturbing results from Operation Deep Dive, an investigation into the deaths of civilians and ex-military personnel from eight states. It seems that at least 44 elderly people commit suicide every day. This equates to a number 2.4 times greater than the VA estimate. Data from the VA and Operation Deep Dive show an alarming suicide rate among veterans despite tremendous efforts to prevent these tragedies. A company is trying to stimulate a destructive trend to reach veterans and military personnel who may be in combat.
After Iraq War Troubles, This Veteran Can't Afford a VA Home in Los Angeles
Retired Navy Col. Mike Hudson is vice president of ClearForce, which he says is working to "take its commercially successful technology and adapt it" to combat suicide among veterans and military personnel. By collecting limited public data on the social determinants of health without compromising privacy, ClearForce aims to "highlight in real time" what veterans and military personnel "need to know." Through a multi-party support system that it hopes will include veterans, veterans service organizations and active duty military members, ClearForce will enable face-to-face interaction with veterans and military members in stressful situation. This will put them in touch with resources that Hudson says can "correct course."
ClearForce's new approach will be a clear balance of suicide prevention efforts that rely on veterans and service members contacting veterans' organizations, suicide hotlines or other agencies in crisis situation. The company's vision will complement activities such as the 2019 VA Solid Start program, which includes direct contact with new veterans at three locations during their first year of transition to the civilian world. A strong start gives new veterans hope, but for separated VA veterans, ClearForce's multi-level engagement can be especially effective. According to the VA Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report 2022, 60.3% of veteran suicides occur among veterans who have not recently used the VA.
In 2015, I interviewed an Army Reserve veteran. He told me that he and his twin brother were struggling to adjust to life off the battlefield after returning from a grueling deployment in Afghanistan. When she went to the local VA hoping to talk to a therapist about the sudden onset of major depression, she said she had two options: go to the emergency room or wait a few weeks to talk to a therapist. He insisted he was not suicidal, simply seeking help in a crisis. He did not have a choice. During our interview, the young man became disenchanted with the VA. He also told me that his struggles were in the past. Barely 18 months later and after the suicide of his twin brother, he took his own life. He let his family and friends try to figure out his decision.
Each veteran and soldier suicide unfolds like a series of fine cracks, radiating the trauma of ending the person's life. Innovative technologies deserve attention to help veterans and military personnel find meaning and live better lives.
Click here to learn more about the Washington Examiner
Beth Bailey (@BWBailey85) is a Detroit-based freelance writer.