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Suicide rate among younger veterans increased, VA data shows

The suicide rate among veterans decreased in 2016, but increased among veterans under the age of 34, according to data released by the Veterans Administration on Wednesday.

In 2015, the number of veterans who committed suicide was 7,663. That number decreased by 365 to 7,298 in 2016. The suicide rate went from 30.5 out of 100,000 to 30.1 out of 100,000.

But among 18-34-year-olds, the rate increase from 40.4 out of 100,000 to 45 out of 100,000.

In a news release, the VA did not speculate why there was an increase among younger veterans, but said the data will help develop programs for suicide prevention.

"These data offer insights that will help us build networks of support, interventions and research-backed suicide prevention initiatives to reach all Veterans, even those who do not and may never come to us for care," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement.

Statistics show that veterans account for 14 percent of suicides in the United States, while making up only 8 percent of the country's population.

"If any other population of 20 million people were exposed to these threats it would be considered a public health priority," Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the Wall Street Journal. "There has never been a national call to action."

While the overall suicide rate decreased, the usage of firearms, the most popular method of suicide, increased.

In 2015, a firearm was used in 67 percent of veteran suicide. The following year, that number was 69.4 percent.

"Suicide prevention remains VA's highest clinical priority," Wilkie said. "One life lost to suicide is one too many,"
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