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Mission: Service — Omaha VA encouraged by declining rate of veteran suicides

Iowa and Nebraska still haver higher rates than the national average
Posted at 6:17 AM, Oct 26, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Veteran suicide rates are declining.

According to data published by the U.S. government in September 2022, efforts to reduce the number of veteran suicides are working. The National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, published by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, shows the rate of veterans dying by suicide is decreasing.

Dave Tuttle, a suicide prevention program manager at the Omaha VA, says the numbers are encouraging.

"You probably heard that 22 veterans a day die by suicide,” said Tuttle. “That number has been refigured to 18. So we have 18 veterans who die by suicide a day, and we know that 11 of those veterans are not in VA care."

Tuttle says the numbers prove that activities like the VA’s community outreach programs are working.

The annual report, which shows data from the past two years and beyond, breaks down the data by sex, age, race and ethnicity, and other pertinent data. The VA has also released data by state for 2020.

For Nebraska and Iowa, veteran suicide rates were higher than the national veteran suicide rate.

The national rate was close to 31.7 per 100,000 people in 2020. In Iowa, the rate was close to 34.7 per 100,000 people, and in Nebraska, the rate was higher at about 40.3 per 100,000 people.

These figures are significantly higher than the state and national general population suicide rates.

Tuttle says that locally and nationally, the VA is putting more resources into projects and programs to get these numbers lower.

"We want to do outreach internally when we have veterans that have been identified as being at higher risk for suicide or other negative outcomes," said Tuttle.

The Omaha VA says focusing on the whole veteran, not just mental health, is a tool in their mission to save lives.

"When we talk about getting into the living rooms and really trying to make a difference, not only in reducing the suicide rate, but also improving quality of life; that does boil down to making those connections within families, within communities, within the veteran population, and the VA, the veteran population and the vet centers. People understanding and believing that there are people there to help them," Tuttle added.

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