Suicide facts - beyond the press.
Vets-help has worked long and hard to develop programs and activities to help vets want to reengage in life and learn to have fun again. We understand the downward spirals that begin in the military for whatever reasons - the despair, heartache, being alone and not understood, and detached because of what we learned and experienced.
I met Heide Ainsworth through Rally Point. She asked me to post his letter and information. Please read, digest and pass on this excellent observation. Craig Northacker, vets-help.Org
As many of you know, i am a retired er/trauma RN with years of experience in the bloodiest of situations and never flinched. But, yesterday after reviewing and analyzing what data is available on veteran suicide and the actual numbers, i was overwhelmed with sadness and became resolute in my war against veteran suicide. Twenty two per day is the epidemic number the va has been willing to admit to and fighting since 2006. Their attempts at decreasing this number have proven unsuccessful despite the addition of staff, executive meetings in Washington this spring and “crisis hot lines” that may even go answered.
My psychiatric nursing internship was spent at a VA hospital where i cared for the most dangerous of all the veteran schizophrenics and sociopaths. The wards were filled to capacity, fights were common and psychotropic medications were handed out by the wheelbarrows. One of my patients who had been there for years, named Chauncey always conversed rambling in “bugs and leeches until the day he became my hero. Another patient threatened my physical well-being and it was very close. Chauncey came to my rescue pushing me aside, protecting me from the blows directed my way, while yelling “you’ll be ok.” I was stunned, not hurt, but, i have always believed Chauncey was “still there.”
As the years progressed, i ended up as a night manager of a large ER. Although the VA hospital was less than a mile away, veterans who were seriously injured or sick were immediately diverted to our hospital because the VA was unable to handle the acuity. But, my most recent experience with a VA hospital was in phoenix where i assisted a friend to the er because of what i knew to be pneumonia. His temperature was not taken, breath sounds were never listened nor was he ever seen by an MD. Ineffective antibiotics were ordered through “standing orders.” a chest xray was never done. In essence, a “band aid” was applied. Because of his many physical and psychiatric disorders, it was decided to have his attending md call him via phone to conduct his physical, which wasn’t going to happen for 2 months! This is 3rd world medicine and we are subjecting our veterans to its’ heinous care!
Based on my career, VA experiences that i didn’t think relevant until now, and what i have been recently have been made aware of, suicide prevention has to be a priority with our veterans. Whether it started as TBI, PTSD, homelessness, unemployment, disability, chemical dependency or survival guilt, etc, veteran suicide is raising its’ ugly head and veterans are killing themselves in larger numbers than previously thought.
As the CEO of Welcome Home to the USA, i have enlisted the help of a suicide prevention therapist. Both he and his team stand poised and ready to join our fight against veteran suicide. He talks about the “bifurcated self”, being a reason for suicide- 2 separate entities: the hero and the homeless man. Who am i if i’m not a soldier? Welcome Home to the USA stands ready to join the fight against veteran suicide.
A higher rank llc
The sobering facts especially the ones the VA doesn’t want you to know:
- these veteran suicides are happening in the prime of their life.
- there are more veteran suicides per day than in active combat.
- the data the va uses to gather their “22” per day figure is based on only 21 states! Not all states list military status on death certificates.
- the va crisis lines have not made a difference in the suicide rate.
- for every veteran killed in action, 25 take their own lives
- only 50-56% of eligible veterans are registering for va healthcare so, how many that are not registered have lost their 5 year window?
- 80% of those who commit suicide do so within one month of seeking va services. This number is appalling—what happened to physician competency and standards of care?
- the va does not report the suicides that take place within their walls—this information is only internal. (even in private hospitals there are suicides)
- by federal law, those requesting suicide interventions, must have their initial evaluation within 24 hours.
- it is unclear whether the va adheres to the 24 hour rule as there are reports of initial visits taking up to 2-3 months.
- only 15% of veterans diagnosed with ptsd obtain 8 psychotherapy treatments in 14 months.
- currently, there are 5 million veterans that are not in the va system.
- service providers who are qualified to handle the increasing issues of ptsd and tbi have jcaho accreditation. The va is not a part of this system and adheres to the care guidelines only.
- and finally, how many veteran suicides are unreported due to stigma, unrecognized or “irrelevant” military status in private hospitals and on death certificates, or deaths that appear to be of natural causes.
What does this all mean? The VA does not have the capacity to handle this epidemic, which i believe to be 30-35 suicides per day. The va bound by care guidelines does not want the more capable resources of jcaho providers. But, they are in a bind----their system is fractured and they are unwilling to compromise for now. However, i do believe they recognize that welcome home to the usa is a force that can’t be ignored.
I thank you all for your attention.
Heide Ainsworth RN, CEO
Welcome Home To The USA