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February 3, 2013

Counting the deaths:Military suicides on the rise

Suicides by military personnel were almost one per day in 2012

(Continued)

Last year, the Pentagon created the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, which is responsible for oversight of suicide prevention and resilience programs, including suicide prevention efforts administered by each branch of the armed services, she said.

In Massachusetts, the National Guard has partnered with the University of Massachusetts Medical School to train service members to see in their colleagues some of the warning signs of suicide, such as depression or increased alcohol use, and to encourage them to get treatment.

Veterans Affairs hospitals offers some services for depression, PTSD and other related issues, but Campbell said the hospitals are overwhelmed. The closest VA medical center is in Bedford.

“The VA itself has acknowledged they can’t keep up with the demand in terms of veterans reaching out to the system,” Campbell said. “They’re putting more resources into this need, but it’s difficult for them to keep up.”

The VA also has clinics that provide services to veterans and their families. Established after the Vietnam War, the clinics act as a one-stop clearinghouse for vets who live far from a VA hospital. About two-thirds of the workers are veterans, and the clinics screen visitors for drug and alcohol abuse, help the homeless find a shelter or apartment, and the unemployed find a job. The nearest clinic is in Lowell.

Veterans services offices and a state organization, the Statewide Advocacy for Veterans’ Empowerment, can help veterans navigate the maze of regulations that can discourage, and sometimes restrict, veterans who do seek treatment. The offices also work with local job centers, including Valley Works Career Center in Lawrence and Haverhill, to help veterans find jobs and to find workshops on interviewing for jobs and building a resume.

Massachusetts offers veterans a “welcome home” bonus for each tour, and offers assistance for veterans who cannot find work and are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Veterans services offices distribute bonuses to veterans in their communities, and can help in signing up for benefits.

Veterans looking for assistance, or a veteran’s family, also can call the Military Crisis number, 1-800-273-8255.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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Veteran suicides and war deaths since 2001 YEAR Suicides Afghanistan deaths Iraq deaths 2001 160 11 NA 2002 171 49 NA 2003 190 45 486 2004 195 52 846 2005 189 98 844 2006 213 98 820 2007 223 117 903 2008 267 155 313 2009 309 311 148 2010 295 499 48 2011 301 414 0 2012 349 313 NA (Source: Department of Defense)

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