Nevada in Crisis Over Veterans Suicides

Monday, 27 Feb 2012 11:30 AM

By Greg McDonald

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The suicide rate among military veterans in Nevada has reached “crisis” proportions, especially among younger vets returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a report Monday in the Las Vegas Sun.
 
The Sun, reporting on new data from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, noted the suicide rate among state veterans from 2008 through 2010 was 2.5 times higher than the rate for all Nevadans “and nearly quadruple the national nonveteran suicide rate.”

The state recorded 1,545 Nevada suicides between 2008 and 2010. Of that number, nearly a quarter, or 373 of them, were veterans.

“The explanation: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a brutal toll on our young men and women,” wrote Sun columnist J. Patrick Coolican. “And they have come home to a bad economy and communities that are often clueless about what veterans have experienced or how to help them.”

Liana Retch, herself a veteran and public health expert, who compiled the data for the state health and human services agency, told Coolican: “Those high numbers are reflective of a decade of war and the impact that has on those who have been asked to serve in that war.”

In his report, Coolican noted that it’s possible the problem in Nevada and nationally could be much worse.

But the lack of adequate data collection nationally makes it difficult to determine whether suicide among veterans “is better or worse in other states.”

“What we do know, however, is that nationally the problem is significant,” Coolican wrote. “The VA estimates that a veteran takes his or her own life every 80 minutes — 6,500 suicides per year. That’s 20 percent of all suicides in the United States.”

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