New government research suggests that, for women, military service drastically increases the likelihood of suicide: female veterans ages 18 to 29 kill themselves at nearly 12 times the rate of non-veterans.
That’s according to the L.A. Times, reporting on eleven years’ worth of data just released by the VA. The Times adds: “In every other age group, including women who served as far back as the 1950s, the veteran rates are between four and eight times higher, indicating that the causes extend far beyond the psychological effects of the recent wars.”
What makes these findings so striking is that female veterans’ “suicide rate is so high that it approaches that of male veterans, a finding that surprised researchers because men generally are far more likely than women to commit suicide,” said the L.A. Times. Epidemiologist Matthew Miller (who wasn’t part of the study) called the numbers “staggering” and said, “We have to come to grips with why the rates are so obscenely high.”
The causes are tough to suss out, there are likely several factors at play, and deeper explanations will require further research. There’s the fact that women who’ve served are more likely to own guns, which are more deadly than pills, for instance. Some say it could be a matter of the population that opts into the military, with the armed forces drawing a disproportionate number of people from tough backgrounds and even a history of abuse. But there’s also the story of 24-year-old Katie Lynn Cesena to consider:
First, she had reported being raped by a fellow service member. The Pentagon has estimated that 10% of women in the military have been raped while serving and another 13% subject to unwanted sexual contact, a deep-rooted problem that has gained attention in recent years as more victims come forward.
The distress forced Cesena out of the Navy, said her mother, Laurie Reaves.
She said her daughter was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression at the VA Medical Center in San Diego and lived in fear of her purported rapist — who was never prosecuted — and his friends.
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