According to the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) in Austin, we could lose an additional 550 veterans to suicide annually for every five percent increase in the national unemployment rate. It also projects more than 20,000 veterans could suffer from substance abuse annually compared to pre-COVID levels.
MMHPI President and CEO Andy Keller said the models used in the study are based off of data collected during previous economic downturns.
"Really, if the situation persists, we have to be ready and we have to be more ready than we are currently because currently, we're not doing a great job," he said. "We lost 6,700 veterans to suicide every year before COVID-19, and to see that tragically go up, potentially 10 percent, just by the levels we're at right now, we could see an increase of over 1000 deaths per year."
Keller hopes the data will lead policy makers and health systems to address mental health issues proactively.
He also urges people to ask for mental health screenings when visiting the doctor.
"Just like you don't have to go somewhere else to get your blood pressure taken when you visit your doctor, you shouldn't have to go somewhere else to get your depression assessed or to get immediate help, which you can in the fast majority of cases," Keller said.
Resources for veterans in crisis or in need of support include:
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), Option 1
- Veterans Crisis Text: Text "HELP" to 838255
For more crisis resources, visit their website.
For mental health support, visit Cohen Veterans Network.
- For peer support call Vets4Warriors 1-855-838-8255
- National Women Veterans Hotline: (855) 829-6636)
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