New data from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows the number of young male vets committing suicide jumped 44 percent from 2009 to 2011, or roughly two young men a day, reports say.
The suicide rate for all veterans remained mostly unchanged over the same period; the department estimates some 22 veterans a day take their own life, Stars and Stripes reported
But while there was a slight decrease in suicides among older vets, the rate among male vets under 30 increased 44 percent — most of them just a few years out of the military.
"Their rates are astronomically high and climbing," said Jan Kemp, the Veteran's Affairs' national mental health director for suicide prevention. "That’s concerning to us."
Kemp said the pressures of leaving the military life, readjusting to civilian life, and combat injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder all play a role in problems facing the stressed young male vets.
Female vets saw an 11 percent increase in their suicide rate over the same time period, the data shows.
Overall, according to the data, suicides for all veterans are significantly higher than among civilians, Stars and Stripes reported. But the data notes national rates have been about the same or slightly increased in recent years, indicating a larger national health problem.
Kemp said that for vets who are being cared for within the VA system, "treatment does work."
Of the 22 deaths a day for suicidal vets, only about five are getting care within the health system.
"They're young. They've just gotten out of the service," Kemp said in USA Today
"They're more concentrated on going home, getting jobs, for the most part. They're not coming in for mental health care," she said.
VA epidemiologist Robert Bossarte told USA Today a similar pattern was found among vets in the past.
"Several studies after Vietnam showed increases in suicide and other forms of injury/mortality for about the first five years following a return from service," Bossarte says. "Those rates [eventually] came down to be about the same as the rest of the population."
Kemp said suicide rates for male vets overall who are diagnosed and treated for mental health problems by the VA have fallen steadily from 2001, in contrast to suicide patterns among nonvets.
But suicide rates have not improved and remain higher for female vets than for women who are not veterans, the VA data showed.
"If we can get them engaged in [mental health] services, we can make a huge difference, and that's encouraging," Kemp said.
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