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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Local veteran's suicide reflects troubling trend

Local News | Local veteran's suicide reflects troubling trend | Seattle Times Newspaper
High suicide rate

During nine years of war, suicide rates among active-duty soldiers, once far below the civilian population, have been on the rise. From January through June 10 of this year, 115 soldiers had taken their lives. The even higher rate of veterans taking their own lives after leaving the military also has raised major concerns.

More than 35,800 Washington state veterans have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan war era. If the national veteran suicide rates also are representative of the state level, then more than a dozen young Washington veterans kill themselves each year.

These veterans can turn to a network of hospitals, clinics and counseling centers that have benefited from increased federal funding. Washington state has developed a network of 37 counselors who offer free services to veterans, while King County voters approved a 2005 levy that expanded services to veterans.

These efforts have aided plenty of people.

But the failures are wrenching.

In the summer of 2008, for example, two 25-year-old Iraq veterans in Washington state killed themselves: Timothy Juneman, who was attending school in Spokane, hung himself in his apartment. Tim Nelson, who was working at a Bellingham veterans center, shot himself at his home.

"As I've often asked, mostly of myself, but also of others from time to time, why do we know so much about suicides but so little about how to prevent them?" said Eric Shinseki, a retired Army general who now heads the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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