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Female Veterans 2.5 Times More Likely To Commit Suicide
Updated September 26, 2017 6:36 AM
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(WASHINGTON) - Female veterans are 2.5 times more likely to commit suicide than their non-veteran counterparts, according to a new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This marks a difference in suicide rate that has been relatively constant since 2001.

Loree Lewis of Talk Media News reports, male veterans are more likely than their female counterparts to commit suicide, but their rate of suicide when compared to their male civilian counterparts is less drastic -- at 1.22 times as high.

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To explain the discrepancy in the female rate, the VA points out that female veterans have greater access to firearms -- and that attempted suicide by firearm is on average more likely to result in death than attempts by other means, like pharmaceuticals or suffocation.

The proportion of suicides resulting from a firearm has increased among female veterans - from 31 percent in 2001 to 41 percent in 2014. Suicide by fire arm in the female civilian population meanwhile has decreased - from 36 percent in 2001 to 31 percent in 2014.

In addition to the access to firearms, research shows that veterans who experience sexual trauma are more likely to die by suicide than their peers who are not affected by sexual trauma -- although the correlation between military sexual trauma and suicide is greater among men. Female service members report sexual trauma more often than their male counterparts.

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Rajeev Ramchand, who studies suicide among U.S. service members and veterans, said the Rand Corporation found that female veterans most often called the VA crisis line because of reasons related to military sexual trauma.

"Not necessarily just that they had been traumatized and were dealing with some kind of PTSD, but that there were triggers of that trauma," Ramchand said. "They either heard stories in the news, or the person who had been the offender had moved into their neighborhood, or was now the boss of their spouse. Something happened, some trigger that led them into a more anxiety-ridden state."

When female veterans do seek help within the VA, they can find a support system that is largely male oriented, he said. If women are comfortable within the VA, they face other barriers to care, such as finding reliable childcare so that they can attend mental health treatment, Ramchand said.



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