By Sgt. Kyle Fisch, USASOC Public AffairsSeptember 15, 2016
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- According to a recent in-depth comprehensive analysis conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), veteran suicide rate is actually an estimated 20-a-day, compared to the 22-a-day stated from their previous study.
Previous rates were estimated using data collected from 20 states and approximately 3 million records, whereas the most recent analysis was comprised of data collected from all 50 states and four territories as well as more than 55 million records from 1979 to 2014.
The VA however, is not the only organization in the U.S. conducting research into this alarming matter.
"There was a survey conducted in 2014 by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which said that; 31 percent of service members of the entire military overall, said that they considered taking their own lives. For me, that's a pretty profound number to think about," said Lt. Col. Cregg Puckett, a U.S. Army Special Operations Command chaplain. "If we put it in context of 2 million or so service members, you're talking about 600,000 service members who have considered taking their own lives."
"Just to think of that many people for whom that (suicide) would enter their minds, and is a valid option for them, is incredible," Puckett said. "40 percent said they knew another veteran who had committed suicide."
The Army and the Department of Defense's view on suicide is steadfast in that 'one suicide is one too many.' September is National Suicide Prevention Month and the DoD as well as other organizations are raising awareness to help those in need.
"I know the Department of Defense has a great commitment to this subject. In recent years there have been 61 studies implemented, with a cost upwards of a 100 million dollars spent on finding out what's happening and what can be done to help these service members, so it's great to know that there is that large of a commitment toward this," Puckett said.
As part of the multiple prevention methods and programs, there is a particular acronym the Army uses that is simple enough for anyone to remember but very effective in regards to prevention.
"I always fall back on the 'A.C.E.' approach. I think it's tried and true and a great method to help. It stands for Ask, Care, and Escort," Puckett said.
According to the Army's A.C.E. model, the first step in determining if someone is suicidal is simply to "Ask" them very direct, pointed questions; "Are you thinking about killing yourself?" or "Do you have a plan/how would you do it?"
If this person affirms that they intend to kill themselves, you should "Care" for them. Talk to the individual and see if they will open up about why they are considering ending their life. You should also take an active role in ensuring the individual does not possess the means to harm themselves. (i.e. remove any weapons in their possession.)
Finally, you should "Escort" the individual to a chaplain or other qualified professional. Under no circumstances should you leave the individual alone after confirming suicidal ideation or intent.
"The chaplains are here to assist in every way possible for Soldiers who are struggling in any different area of life, whether it be work-related, related to home or relationship issues," Puckett said. "Whatever it is, that's where a chaplain or a behavioral health professional comes in to assist and is equipped to help with any counseling needs."
Depression and anxiety have been cited as the usual culprits that can lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts and can affect anybody at any time. Puckett believes that everybody has some sort of experience with suicide in some way, shape or form.
"All of us somehow, directly or indirectly, I'm sure have been affected by suicide in some way," Puckett said. "Whether it's a friend of a friend or maybe it's someone close to you, everyone can probably think of someone that they know of who has committed suicide."
"There is an old saying; 'Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,' and I don't like this expression because it's not a solution, you're not solving the problem, but it is permanent," Puckett said. "The problems that we often face in life are temporary, we all go through difficult times in our lives and it's important to have someone or something to lean on like a buddy or your faith. It's very important to know that there is hope."