From The Times, November 15, 2007 by Tom Baldwin in Washington.
More American military veterans have been committing suicide than US soldiers have been dying in Iraq, it was claimed yesterday.
At least 6,256 US veterans took their lives in 2005, at an average of 17 a day, according to figures broadcast last night. Former servicemen are more than twice as likely than the rest of the population to commit suicide.
Such statistics compare to the total of 3,863 American military deaths in Iraq since the invasion in 2003 - an average of 2.4 a day, according to the website ICasualties.org.
The rate of suicides among veterans prompted claims that the US was suffering from a “mental health epidemic” – often linked to post-traumatic stress.
suicide rate among Americans as a whole was 8.9 per 100,000, but the level among veterans was at least 18.7. That figure rose to a minimum of 22.9 among veterans aged 20 to 24 – almost four times the nonveteran average for people of the same age.
There are 25 million veterans in the United States, 1.6 million of whom served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Not everyone comes home from the war wounded, but the bottom line is nobody comes home unchanged,” said Paul Rieckhoff, a former Marine and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America.
A separate study published last week shows that US military veterans make up one in four homeless people in America, even though they represent just 11 per cent of the general adult population, and younger soldiers are already trickling into shelters and soup kitchens after completing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While it took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless, at least 1,500 ex-servicemen from the present wars have already been identified.