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22 Veteran Suicides A Day

by: Denise Williams

Sept 2, 2014

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22 veterans and active duty service members die by suicide a day, a statistic with which we’ve become familiar. But, it is a lie. That appalling and horrifying number represents only those officially counted by the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. The truth is, no one knows how many of our service men and women and our veterans are dying by suicide.

If a veteran is not enrolled in, seeking care from or currently being treated by the VA, their suicide is not counted as part of that number. If an active duty service member dies in a single vehicle crash, even if it is known by family and friends that person had suicidal thoughts or ideations, it is not counted either.

The number 22 also does not include those veterans who die from alcoholism, exposure to the elements due to homelessness or any of the other myriad manifestations of what is euphemistically termed ‘life-style choices’ that led to their deaths.

22 a day. Over 8,000 a year. That's more in one year than have died in action in thirteen years of war.

Also not listed in the casualty count is the number of family members who may be technically alive but stopped living the day their loved one died by suicide. The most frightening and yet unknown number is how many family members of those 22 a day also died by suicide.

Suicide is a disease, a virus that for many is incurable. It is highly contagious. Like other viral diseases, though many of the symptoms are known, the true cause is unknown. Or, many of the causes are known but too little understood. Why is depression fatal in some and not others? Why do some develop full-blown suicide from anti-malarial drugs and others don’t?

22 a day.

September is Suicide Awareness Month and over the next 30 days, I will share the stories of suicide I’ve come to know. Some are successes, where the infected person recovered. Most are how the infection proved fatal and contagious to the family. I don’t believe that we will ever find a total cure for this disease; I don’t believe there is one vaccine that will work for everyone, but perhaps by listening to the survivors, we can find ways to help others live through this disease.

22 a day. Even one is too many but I wish it were only 22 a day.

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