Late Breaking News
Survey of Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans Ranks Suicide as Most Important Concern
- Categorized in: 2013 Issues, Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Depression, Psychiatry, September 2013
By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON — Suicide ranked as the most important issue facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, according to a survey conducted by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), an organization that advocates on behalf of veterans.
Survey respondents included 3,274 confirmed veterans who provided proof of their service and 840 unconfirmed veterans who did not provide proof of service. The survey was open to IAVA membership through a secure online questionnaire earlier this year.
Among the survey’s findings was that 30% of those polled had considered taking their own life, while 45% of respondents know an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide. The survey also found that 63% of the respondents had veteran friends who they feel need care for a mental health injury.
“These findings, along with others focusing on mental health issues, highlight the need for continued focus in these areas,” IAVA Research Director Jacqueline Maffucci wrote in an IAVA blog post.
Underscoring the impact of suicides among the ranks was the Army’s most recent suicide statistics; it showed that, from January through June of 2013, there had been 77 potential active-duty suicides (42 confirmed and 35 under investigation). A VA report released earlier this year estimated that 22 veterans committed suicide a day in 2010, the latest year for which VA has an estimate.
Mental Health Care
The IAVA survey also found that 50% of respondents said they had people close to them suggest they seek mental health care. Yet, 19% said they did not seek care, primarily because of the potential impact on their careers.
When it comes to the VA’s Crisis Line, launched to help stem the growing tide of suicides by veterans, 93% of respondents said they were aware of it, while 37% said that they would use it if they felt suicidal.
The claims backlog was another issue highlighted by the survey: 40% of respondents said they have a claim pending with VA, and 74% of those have been waiting for more than 120 days.
According to IAVA, the survey “is the largest annual, nongovernmental survey sample of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, four times larger than the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly sample of Gulf War Era II vets.”
The IAVA stated that the survey results help the group inform its policy agenda and organizational priorities for the coming year as well as to “shape our membership programs and partnerships.”
“Our members’ answers also allow us to compare their changing needs from year to year and help to fill gaps in public knowledge about this new generation of veterans,” the organization noted.