From 2005 to 2007, the suicide rate among 18- to 29-year old males who've left the U.S. military increased 26 percent, according to preliminary data released Monday by the Veterans Affairs Department.
In 2007, the suicide rate for this group was 56.77 per 100,000, compared with 44.99 per 100,000 in 2005. The numbers were calculated using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures from 16 states, the Associated Press reported.
One positive finding was that veterans in this group who used VA health care in 2007 were less likely to commit suicide than those who did not. That wasn't the case in 2005.
The VA needs to improve its understanding of what leads to these suicides, and VA facilities need more stringent protocols about how to handle a potentially suicidal veteran, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said Monday at a conference about the issue, the AP reported.
Veterans account for about 20 percent of suicides committed each year in the U.S., he noted.