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Nevada VA takes new approach to combat rampant veteran suicides

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Suicide is still a serious problem plaguing our veterans. An average of 20 veterans take their own lives each day.

The alarming number of veteran suicides has been an ever-present shadow cast over our country. It’s a number that represents a sad fact in America.

The VA has tried for decades to turn that trend around, but suicide is ever-present in the military community. Post-traumatic stress is plaguing the newest generation of veterans even more than before.

RELATED | Nevada veteran suicide rate drops, but remains among highest on West Coast

“Suicide rates have increased from 1999 to 2014,” said Dr. Ramu Komanduri. “If you look at Vietnam-era veterans, the rate is something like 11 to 30 percent for PTSD. The percentage looks to be higher with the new generation.”

According to Dr. Komanduri, the changing military is seeing new challenges.

“We know one in five at least, and close to maybe one in four women, have experienced sexual trauma in the military,” said Dr. Komanduri.

An estimated 14 of the 20 veterans who take their lives each day are not patients in the VA system.

Now, a new three-pronged approach is being tried in Nevada. The VA is getting involved in the community by working with local hospitals and putting hotline numbers in liquor stores.

The goal is to identify high-risk veterans in the community.

The VA is expanding access to immediate care -- something they’ve struggled with in the past.

“A veteran can walk into our facilities and seen, and if they say ‘I’m in crisis,’ they can see someone that day,” said Dr. Komanduri.

All this effort is being made to try and end the 16-year trend that is taking lives.

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