Officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released information that a veteran died by suicide on Sunday. The unfortunate incident occurred in the visitor parking lot of the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, North Carolina at around 8:50 a.m.
The Asheville Police Department is investigating the incident, but VA officials provided the following statement in their release:
“We are saddened by this loss and extend our deepest condolences to the Veteran’s family, friends, and caregivers… Suicide prevention is the VA’s number one clinical priority. Charles George VA Medical Center and its community outpatient clinics at Hickory, Rutherford County, and Franklin have many services for Veterans who are struggling with mental health concerns, such as depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, military sexual trauma, and substance use disorders.”
However, despite suicide prevention being the “VA’s number one clinical priority,” suicide remains a serious problem. In fact, between 2008 and 2016, more than 6,000 veterans killed themselves each year, and the suicide rate per 100,000 people for veterans ages 18 to 34 increased from 40.4 to 45 nationwide between 2015 and 2016, despite the VA’s efforts to combat the issue. Moreover, in November, the Government Accountability Office released a report that stated the Veterans Health Administration had spent only $57,000 of the $6.2 million budgeted for fiscal year 2018 for suicide prevention media outreach due to leadership turnover and agency reorganization.
Aside from the suicide at the Charles George VA Medical Center on Sunday morning, there have been multiple other reports of veterans committing suicide while at VA facilities. For instance, in April of this year, two veterans committed suicide at two separate VA medical centers in Georgia.
While the VA claims that suicide prevention is its number one priority, its actions, or rather its inaction, speak louder than words. The VA is allegedly reviewing its policies and procedures to see if changes are needed. However, if history is any sort of indication, those changes won’t be implemented in a timely fashion.
It’s time to start appreciating the sacrifices that our country’s veterans have made for our freedom, provide them with adequate and competent health care, and to appropriately and timely address the issue of veteran suicide.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, the Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-8255 or going online at www.veteranscrisisline.net.