Suicides Drop Among Active Military; Veterans Increase

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By Matthew Searcy

WSIL -- Suicide among veterans continues to be a serious problem. A new national report shows rates are down among active duty troops but numbers are up for other veterans.

"Suicide is a permanent decision to a temporary problem," said Marion VA suicide prevention coordinator Dale Horaz. "They have intent to harm themselves and a plan to harm themselves. You get those ingredients together and that's a potion for disaster."
 
The latest numbers show that in three years the number of former troops taking their own lives has increased by nearly 11 percent. Younger vets saw a 44 percent increase.   
 
"I woke up and I felt like that was the end of it for me," said veteran Michael Little. "I felt like I didn't need to be here anymore."
 
Little spent 11 years serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. He shared his story of battling post traumatic stress disorder with News 3 last August.  
 
"I can personally attest to it because I have lost 9 shipmates to suicide since I have returned home during my tours in Iraq and Afghanistan," explained Little.  
 
The VA has taken steps in recent years to address the suicide epidemic. Setting up a toll-free crisis hotline and integrating mental health services with primary care. 
 
"I think what we need to do is make families, friends and the veterans themselves aware that there is help out there," explained Little. "Getting treatment for suicidal thoughts is just like getting treatment for any other ailment."
 
Horaz says locally veterans are reaching out for help more than ever, "Our numbers of those who we have been able to identify as high risk have increased, with that being said our actual suicides have decreased." 
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