Since 9/11 it’s not uncommon to see women in conflict areas around the world. Their numbers in the military have increased, and a new study shows their problems associated with war, too, have increased. A comprehensive study from the Department of Veterans Affairsshows the suicide rate among women vets has increased 85 percent over the last 25 years.
“You had to be really tough, you know. You couldn't take anything less than excellence,” says Dawn Lafferty.
Lafferty says in her 13 years as a corpsman in the Navy she experienced and saw a lot. It impacted her, just like all her female colleagues. While they had a common bond in the military, Lafferty believes those bonds untie, and looking for understanding in the outside world gets difficult.
“Just think about it. You know if you are sitting with a group of women who have never been in the military, they don't understand what type of experiences have really taken place,” says Lafferty. There could be something to Lafferty's theory. Even though female veterans commit suicide at lower rates than their male counterparts, it is six times higher when compared to women in the civilian world. And those female veterans are more likely to use firearms in their suicide attempts.
“Veterans in general, both men and women, are obviously going to be more comfortable with firearms than the civilian population. About 67% of veterans die of self-inflicted gunshot wounds,” says Marlyn Scholl, a suicide prevention coordinator with the VA.
Scholl says there is help out there for veterans within the system. In recent years there's been an increase in mental health staff, an expansion of the suicide crisis hotline, and trying to ensure same-day treatment. But the bigger challenge, she says, is getting veterans to take advantage of the programs.
The study also showed this:
“20 veterans die of suicide every day. It is huge. About 6 of them only, 6 of them are in the VA system. So there is this other 14 that are not associated with VA care,” says Scholl.