Keeping Rural Veterans Alive

For veterans who return home from a tour of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any of the other hotspots where members of the U.S. military may serve, the possibility of suicide needs to be taken very seriously.

In 2012 alone, the Veterans Administration (VA) recorded about 1,400 suicides, attempted suicides, or reports of serious suicidal ideation per month in veterans they have been tracking.  According to Center for Disease Control statistics for 2008, veterans and serving military personnel account for about twenty percent of all suicides tracked in the United States. Even for veterans living in cities and urban areas, getting access to mental health services can involve long waiting lists and dealing with understaffed mental health agencies. But what about veterans living in rural areas? 

Among returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, about forty-four percent live in rural zip codes with the nearest mental health professional often living hours away.  While rural life is typically viewed as less stressful than life in the city, previous research studies have found a higher rate of suicides in rural populations compared to urban dwellers. As well, rural dwellers are less likely to have access to mental health resources, including being prescribed antidepressant medication.  Even though many people living in rural areaa  have strong ties to their local communities which can act to protect against suicide, there are greater risk factors as well. Suicide by firearm is more common in rural settings and people in rural areas are more likely to own firearms. Living in rural areas can also mean fewer job opportunities and more financial hardship as a result.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today post.




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