New data shows uptick in suicide rate of young veterans - FOX34 Lubbock

New data shows uptick in suicide rate of young veterans

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

According to a new 2016 report from the VA, the rate of veteran suicide in Texas is significantly higher than the national suicide average.

Inetta Reddell, with UMC Health System, said it is reaching epidemic proportions in the state. 

"In the state of Texas alone, you can field a football stadium from the amount of people in the state of Texas, and the state of Texas is a big state, that is the amount of people that take their lives in one year," Reddell said. 

Dave Lewis, with Texas Tech University, said the new VA report is especially troubling, considering the significant rise in young veterans committing suicide. 

"This year, they're saying the data really indicates our younger veterans up to age 38 are the ones that have a really high suicide rate. 55 per 100,000 nationwide, and it's even higher in the state of Texas, so that's something we really need to pay attention to and work hard to intervene," Lewis said.
    
According to the report's data, 6,079 committed suicide in 2016, of those, 530 were Texans. In addition, 109 of those were between ages 18 and 34. 

"If you've got someone who's struggling, don't let them isolate, don't let them get into that spiral and intervene. It's more than just awareness. I think people are very much aware of what's going on with our veterans. Now we need to do something in the community," Lewis said.

Matt McGinnis, with Lubbock Fire Rescue, said first responders are struggling with this fight as well. 

"There were eight first responders in West Texas, from Amarillo to Midland, who committed suicide in 2016. That's a big number. Eight of them. Those are just the ones that were reported. It's happening a lot more than we think. I know some veterans and the statistics are terrible among veterans committing suicide, but they're unfortunately growing among first responders too," McGinnis said. 

McGinnis said no matter how much training first responders go through, it is impossible to be prepared for traumatic situations. 

"You have all this training, and then you look into the eyes of a dead baby, or a two or three year old who is so full of life five minutes ago, and then you look into their eyes and you know that they're... the child is dead. Their whole life in front of them. And it does something to you. Most of first responders have a heart for people, or they wouldn't be doing this. You have all this training, and no matter what you do, you can't affect the outcome like you want to. That affects the guys too," McGinnis said.

Reddell said the importance of these statistics regarding veterans and first responders is leading the system to host a PTSD and Suicide Symposium.

"We just have to become aware of what's available right at our fingertips and so that's what I want to make accessible to people. I think that if we just know of a support group or if we just know of that telephone number to dial or that one agency we can reach out to when we're at our lowest or when we're at that point of no return, maybe that can save someone's life," Reddell said.

The symposium is on Thursday and Friday. located in the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. 

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