The men and women who bravely serve in the United States military often face challenges that extend beyond their time in uniform. For women veterans, these challenges can be particularly daunting, and one of the most pressing issues they confront is the alarmingly high rate of suicide. While the issue of veteran suicide has gained more attention in recent years, the specific experiences and needs of women veterans have often been overlooked. This article aims to shed light on the critical issue of suicide among women veterans in the US and advocate for increased awareness, support, and resources.
The Underlying Factors
Several factors contribute to the elevated risk of suicide among women veterans:
- Trauma: Women veterans may have experienced various forms of trauma during their service, including combat exposure, sexual harassment, or assault. These experiences can lead to lasting mental health challenges.
- Transitioning to civilian life: Reintegrating into civilian society can be a difficult process for veterans, with potential challenges such as finding employment, establishing a support network, and addressing any physical or mental health issues.
- Lack of access to healthcare: Many women veterans struggle to access appropriate healthcare, including mental health services, due to factors such as distance from VA facilities or a lack of awareness about available resources.
- Stigma: The stigma surrounding mental health issues, especially in the military, can prevent women veterans from seeking the help they need.
- Family and caregiving responsibilities: Women veterans often bear the dual responsibility of serving their country and caring for their families, which can add significant stress to their lives.
The Alarming Statistics
The statistics surrounding suicide among women veterans are deeply troubling:
- According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the suicide rate among women veterans is nearly two times higher than that of civilian women.
- Recent studies have indicated that women veterans aged 18-34 face the highest risk of suicide among all veteran demographics.
- In a 2022 study, women veterans were found to be twice as likely to report suicidal ideation (thoughts) than their male counterparts.
- Approximately one in five women veterans has reported experiencing military sexual trauma (MST), a risk factor strongly associated with suicide.
To address the crisis of suicide among women veterans, increased awareness is paramount. Here are some essential steps we can take:
- Education and outreach: Government agencies like the Kentucky Department of Veteran Affairs, non-profit organizations like Lady Veterans Connect, and communities should collaborate to raise awareness about the unique challenges women veterans face. This includes conducting outreach programs, public awareness campaigns, and educational initiatives.
- Destigmatizing mental health: Efforts should be made to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues within the military and veteran communities. This can encourage more women veterans to seek help when they need it.
- Tailored support: The VA and other organizations should continue to provide and grow specialized programs and services tailored to the needs of women veterans. This includes gender-specific mental health care and support for survivors of MST. if you have experienced MST, mental health counseling is available to you (regardless of gender) at the VA for free no matter what your veteran status.
- Improved access to healthcare: Steps should be taken to ensure that women veterans can access healthcare services, including mental health care, regardless of their location. Telehealth options can also be expanded to reach those in remote areas. Less than 50% of women veterans are enrolled in the VA Healthcare System – Have you enrolled? https://www.va.gov/health-care/how-to-apply/
- Peer support networks: Establishing peer support networks for women veterans can provide a vital sense of community and understanding, reducing feelings of isolation and despair.
- Coffee time with Vets and other support groups are popping up around the country at churches, libraries and other locations. Join the conversation and help a brother or sister re-engage with their community.
Lady Veterans Connect does just that, we connect. If you are a veteran in need of this type of support you can consider us a part of your team. We can provide housing and programs to help you get on your feet and find your community again.
The high rate of suicide among women veterans in the US is a pressing issue that demands immediate attention and action. It is our collective responsibility to recognize the sacrifices and challenges that women who have served in the military face, and to provide them with the support and resources they need to thrive in civilian life. By raising awareness, reducing stigma, and implementing targeted programs, we can work towards reducing the devastating toll of suicide among women veterans and ensure they receive the care and respect they deserve.
To learn more about our programs and other organizations in your corner, please attend the Hope & Healing Conference September 29th, 2023 from 2-6pm EST. Located at the KHSAA 2280 Executive Drive, Lexington, KY. Register today to save your spot – tinyurl.com/lvchopeandhealing