VA report: 20 veterans a day committed suicide in 2014

The VA says two-thirds of those who died were at least 50 years old.

The VA says two-thirds of those who died were at least 50 years old. (7/7/16)

WOODBURY - A new federal report found that suicides among veterans are down slightly, but officials say they're still at an alarming level.

An average of 20 veterans a day committed suicide in 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs says. The figure is down from 22 a day in 2013.

"Any time…a suicide rate goes down, it's a good thing," says Bill Doane, of Suffolk County United Veterans. "But 20 a day is much too high."

Doane says the VA's report is proof that the nation has a long way to go to end what many consider to be an epidemic. 

He is also one of the managers of the Veterans Place in Yaphank, which provides a variety of support services for vets returning home from the battlefield. He says one major factor is that many returning vets have PTSD-related problems and do not seek help.

"They withdraw, and they distance themselves, and they alienate from family and friends," he says.

Other experts have also said veterans often do not seek help for mental health related issues. 

The undersecretary of the VA says the study also found that those who receive mental health care are less likely to commit suicide than those who don't. He says it's critical to destigmatize the idea of counseling.

Kawame Williams, a 24-year-old Army veteran, once tried to kill himself. He says he jumped in front of a car 18 months ago after struggling with family problems, homelessness and depression.

"I just jumped in front of a car, and I almost died," Williams says. "At the moment, I will never forget that feeling. It was just weighing down, pure depression."

But the Veterans Place saved his life, Williams says, and other veterans may find help there too.

"Because I was around other veterans," he says. "Not all of them are going through the same things as me, but we can understand what was going on."

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