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Veteran suicide rates dip to lowest in over a decade in 2019

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Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 4:46 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic and military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the VA found veteran suicide rates dipped to the lowest point it has seen in over a decade.

U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) says the Department of Veteran Affairs’ annual report shows a decrease in veteran suicides by 7% in 2019, the lowest in over a decade, and has called for increased awareness for veteran mental health in light of the recent military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“Our nation’s heroes fought valiantly and risked their lives in countless battles throughout history,” said Sen. Marshall. “Unfortunately, many of those who returned home endured countless wounds – both physical and emotional – which put an immense toll on them and their families.”

As a veteran, Marshall said he understands the complexity and severity of veteran suicide, which is why he continues to work with the VA and local veterans groups to bring awareness and connect veterans and organizations with available resources.

“While we still have a long way to go, I am proud to see that in 2019, veteran suicides reached the lowest rate in 12 years,” said Marshall. “However, we must continue to do more to help our American heroes – for they all are truly the best of America. People often ask me what they can do to help, and the truth is veterans need to be a part of a team when they exit the military. Giving veterans a job is a huge first step, as well as making sure they are plugged into the local community. If you or a veteran you know is in a crisis, please don’t hesitate to call the Veteran’s Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.”

Recently, Marshall highlighted the invaluable service of veterans and service members who deployed to Afghanistan and encouraged the nation to check in on veterans and Gold Star families as the U.S. withdrew from the Middle Eastern country.

Marshall said he has also actively worked to improve the lives of veterans in Kansas. More recently, he said he supported the passage of Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act. The new law will help employee veterans to train service dogs while also improving mental health issues associated with PTSD and other service-related traumas. Additionally, he said he joined a group of bipartisan Senators to call on the VA to quickly and proactively reach out to veterans of the Global War on Terrorism about available mental health services.

According to Marshall, the VA releases the National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, the nation’s largest analysis of veteran suicide rates each year. It also highlights mental health conditions like PTSD and substance abuse disorders.

Released the week of Sept. 20, Marshall said the latest 2021 report shows overall veteran suicide count and rate decreased in 2019 from 2018 and from 2017. Specifically, he said there were 6,261 veteran suicide deaths in 2019, 400 fewer than the previous year. However, he said veteran suicide rates were still substantially higher than non-veteran adults.

According to Marshall, the decrease can be attributed to exhaustive efforts to prioritize healthcare delivery reforms. In 2018, he said the VA announced an interagency plan to implement then-President Donald Trump’s order to support veterans with mental health care and suicide-prevention resources during their transition from uniformed service to civilian life.

Notably, Marshall said the VA established public-private partnerships with the American Physical Therapy Association, Independence Fund, Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States and many others to increase access to available resources.

In 2020, Marshall said the Administration continued that work while also addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, he said the VA launched the COVID Coach app, which was designed to help both veterans and civilians cope with feelings of stress and anxiety that could have been brought on by the pandemic.

By December 2020, Marshall said the VA announced the completion of all yearly priorities established under the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, which aims to end suicide through seamless access to care, a connected research ecosystem and robust community engagement meant to change the culture around mental health.

To read the full mental health report by the VA, click HERE.

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