COLORADO SPRINGS — A recent study conducted by America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP) found the current rate of veteran suicides at 17 deaths per day. This number is twice as high as that of civilian suicide rates.
According to data supported by AWP, overdose is the most common cause of death among veterans. In comparison to the rate of civilian overdoses, veterans overdose at a four times greater rate.
“Even one is too many,” President & CEO of AWP, Jim Lorraine, said.
Lorraine served in the United States Air Force as a flight nurse for 23 years. Later in his career, he retired as deputy command sergeant for U.S. Special Operations. Being a veteran himself, he has dedicated himself to preventing veteran suicide.
To improve the quality of life and reduce risk factors associated with veteran suicide, AWP connects local veteran-serving organizations with the appropriate services and resources needed to support service members, their families, and caregivers.
In order to spread awareness, the organization has analyzed the needs of veterans who rely on their community-based programs. If resources do not exist or have been exhausted at the local level, AWP uses their Network to involve national programs in providing needed resources to community programs. In 2021, the Network served about 3,000 veterans boasting a 93% case success rate.
An additional study by AWP referred to as, ‘Operation Deep Dive,’ aimed to examine the lives of service members lost to suicide or self-injury. AWP’s research also studied how veterans were engaged within their communities. Operation Deep Dive discovered that states undercount veteran deaths by as much as 21%.
“Suicide prevention strategies are already at a deficit since the nation is missing the number by 21%,” Lorraine added.
AWP continues to analyze these figures for more accurate statistics on veteran deaths. At the 2nd Annual Partnerships for Veteran & Military Health conference last Friday, Lorraine appeared as a keynote speaker at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Campus.
When speaking about veteran suicide prevention, he said, “The number one thing that communities can do to serve veterans is to know them. There needs to be greater outreach to veterans to educate them and advocate on their behalf.”
According to Lorraine, there are 18 million veterans in the U.S., but only half a million are enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs. This implies that nine million veterans are unknown within their communities. Lorraine stressed that knowing local veterans is a powerful way to spread more awareness of the issue and to increase access and knowledge to services.
“They’re stuck in a limbo because they feel like they don’t fit in,” Lorraine said. “They don’t know the community, and nobody is there to help them move forward.”
Lorraine emphasized that county veteran service officers are great resources for veterans who need help navigating through claims and benefits they are entitled to.
A stronger integration of veterans in their communities would not only decrease the rate of suicide but also lower rates of homelessness and unemployment, according to Lorraine.