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Twenty percent of WA suicides are veterans, here's where veterans can find help

Bellingham Herald - 9/7/2022

Sep. 7—September marked the start of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and Sept. 4 the start of Suicide Prevention Awareness week in the United States. A month to raise awareness about suicide began in 2008, according to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which provides helpful resources and information, as does the American Counseling Association.

Veterans are provided with additional resources due to the high suicide rate among them compared to the general population.

Veteran advocacy organizations like Stop Soldier Suicide estimate that 120,000 veterans have committed suicide since 2001. Researchers at Brown University noted in a study published in June 2021 that this accounts for about 23% of all deaths among post-9/11 active duty soldiers and veterans.

According to the most recent data available from 2019, veterans have a 52.3% greater chance of committing suicide than non-veterans, according to the National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

Among individual groups, the rate of suicide among veterans in the LGBTQ+ community is seven times higher than their peers who did not serve. From 2001 to 2019, veterans between the ages of 18 to 34 had the highest suicide rate, with 44.4 veterans per 100,000 committing suicide.

Veterans in Washington state

In 2019, 255 veterans died by suicide in Washington state, accounting for 20% of all suicides in the state, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

About 517,912 veterans live in Washington state according to 2016-2020 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 7% of Washington's total population.

Washington state has additional resources available for veterans and their families.

The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs connects veterans with the benefits and services they have earned during their time in the military, but the department also has a counseling and wellness division.

Veterans can become connected to Washington resources such as readjustment, bereavement and military sexual trauma counseling, as well as more mental health and suicide prevention resources.

The department also has a Washington map that shows veteran resources in each county.

Suicide prevention awareness resources

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launched the Veterans Crisis Line in 2007, a 24-hour hotline available to veterans, their families and friends. The hotline can be reached by dialing 988 and then pressing 1, texting 838255, or by chatting online.

Since its launch, the hotline has answered more than 3.9 million calls and dispatched emergency services to a caller in crisis over 119,000 times, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Make the Connection is another option that connects veterans with stories from other veterans and potential solutions and resources to issues affecting their mental health. The website includes videos of veterans and their family members sharing stories of their struggles and experiences and how they worked through them.

The Department of Veteran Affairs recommends several phone apps to help veterans, such as PTSD Coach, AIMS for Anger Management and Beyond MST (Military Sex Trauma).

Local Veteran resources in Washington counties

— The Whatcom County Veterans Program helps local veterans be connected to their benefits and services such as medical, housing and education.

— For veterans in Pierce County, the Pierce County Veterans Program provides local resources, an assistance fund and a veterans advisory board.

— The Thurston County Veterans' Assistance Program helps provide veterans with housing and other needs.

— Veterans in Grant County can receive rent or mortgage assistance, medical assistance and food assistance through Grant County Veterans Services.


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