New data shows veteran daily suicide rate drops

Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 10:31 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - New data shows the number of veterans dying of suicide is on the decline.

The National Veteran Suicide Prevention’s annual report showed just under 17 veterans were committing suicide every day. That number was down from 20 years ago when 22 veterans were committing suicide daily.

It’s something Linn County Affair Director, Dustin Peterson, said he knew the importance of firsthand. Sgt. Peterson served 24 years in the Marines including several deployments to Iraq.

“Being lined up to be a drill instructor, that was a very coveted position, and we were told point blank that if we sought mental health or mental treatment, we would be kicked out of the school and sent back to our units,” said Sgt Peterson.

During that time, Peterson said VA data showed 22 veterans a day committed suicide. That number has started to decline. Peterson said he believed community outreach to veterans has helped reduce the number of suicides but said the daily suicide rate was still too high; especially for veterans in their first 12 months of transitioning into civilian life.

“We just had a veteran commit suicide a couple of weeks ago,” said Peterson. “It’s challenging, and it takes an emotional toll. Especially with the veterans that you have invested a couple of years and helped them with their claims and getting to know their family. To find out that they ultimately committed suicide is a tragedy.”

Peterson said it was essential to continue the outreach so people like him could continue serving their country while also making sure help was there when it was needed the most.

“It’s ok to seek treatment, it’s ok to process whatever you have been through and address it and deal with it in a clinical standpoint with a professional rather than self-medicating or anything else you can do to deal with it on your own,” said Peterson. "

The National Crisis Lifeline is 988. That connects callers to local people who can offer support and understanding. Veterans who call the lifeline seeking help will then press one. You can also seek resources here.