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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why are we not talking about attempted veteran suicides?

Why are we not talking about attempted veteran suicides?
Wounded Times Blog
Kathie Costos
June 19, 2013

Most of people working on researching combat related PTSD are growing more and more concerned with the delay of releasing the Department of Defense Suicide Event Report for 2012. Given what we have seen with the 2011 report, the numbers will be a nightmare further indicating that attempts to prevent suicide, while well meaning, have produced the opposite result. We have the data from 2011 to show that attempts have not worked.
The AFMES indicates that 301 Service Members died by suicide in 2011 (Air Force = 50, Army = 167, Marine Corps = 32, Navy = 52). This number includes deaths strongly suspected to be suicides that are pending final determination. DoDSER Points of Contact (POCs) submitted reports for 100% of AFMES confirmed 2011 suicides (Air Force = 46, Army = 159, Marine Corps = 31, Navy = 51) as of the data extraction date (26 April 2012). A total of 915 Service Members attempted suicide in 2011 (Air Force = 241, Army = 432, Marine Corps = 156, Navy = 86). DoDSERs were submitted for 935 suicide attempts (Air Force = 251, Army = 440, Marine Corps = 157, Navy = 87).
Within the same report, the data of attempted suicides is further proof that these programs have not worked.
Of the 915 Service Members who attempted suicide, 896 had one attempt, 18 had two attempts, and 1 had three attempts.


Still there is another report that we fail to acknowledge because the number of successful suicides had been so high. Just as the headlines across the country were focused on 349 military suicides for 2012, they ignored National Guards and Reservist, just as much as they ignored the stunning statement of predicted rise in the numbers of military members committing suicide in 2012 when the DOD had time to enter in all the data collected. Six months into 2013, the numbers have still not been released.

The LA Times reports the true number of military suicides for 2012 are 524. As we have seen in previous reports, there are also attempted suicides tied to military service. While yet again we read headline after headline with 22 veterans committing suicide, we did not read about how many attempted it.


Within the study of veterans committing suicide, there is a section addressing attempted suicides.

Between 2009 and 2012 the numbers are pretty shocking.

24,058 survivors of suicide attempted it with poisoning

5,425 Intentional self-harm by unspecified means

5,148 firearms

4,842 with sharp object

3,045 hanging, strangulation and suffocation

1,106 jumped off moving object

970 sequelae of attempts

As some VHA utilizing Veterans experience multiple reported events, this corresponds to nearly 15,000 suicide suicide events reported in FY2012 compared to more than 16,000 in FY2011.


(80%) of non-fatal events occur within four weeks of recieving VHA services.

An additional 10% of events occur in the second month following last VHA service visit. These findings have important implications for treatment and prevention efforts as the majority of those with report of a suicide event are active, recent VHA users.

Furthermore, nearly 50% of the individuals with a VHA service visit in the year preeceeding the suicide event were last seen in the outpatient primary care setting. This implies that primary care should be an integral component of VHA suicide prevention programs and primary care clinicians should continue to receive support and training on the identification and management of those experiencing distress.

Another 40% of those with report of one or more suicide events were last seen for mental health services indicating a need for continued assessment and risk management following use of VHA services among those with known risk factors (i.e. mental health diagnosis).


In 2012, non-fatal suicide events were reported for almost 11,000 VHA users. As some VHA utilizing Veterans experience multiple reported events, this corresponds to nearly 15,000 suicide suicide events reported in FY2012 compared to more than 16,000 in FY2011. This is unique data and cannot be compared to non-veteran data since population level non-fatal event data on the general population does not exist.
When we think of all the money congress spent on "prevention" as the numbers went higher, we also have to factor in the number of attempted suicides for further proof what they are doing has not worked and will in fact increase the numbers of successful suicides as well as attempted suicides. No one has been held accountable. Congress has not answered to the families left behind after a successful suicide or to the veteran survivors. The Department of Defense answers to no one. The VA answers to no one. The White House answers to no one. Why? Because reporters are not asking the questions that need to be answered.

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