VA Secretary visits Southern North Las Vegas, takes on veteran suicide

Access to mental health treatment critical

Las Vegas (KTNV) - Veterans Affairs' Secretary David Shulkin came to visit  our VA hospital in North Las Vegas today taking on the staggering problem of suicide. 

Contact 13 looks into how many Nevada veterans have taken their own lives and how the VA hopes to prevent that in the future . 

Suicide among former military members is much higher than the general population on average 20 veterans  take their own lives every day. That adds up to over 7000 a year.  

While state and VA leaders say those national numbers are not acceptable, what's happening here in Nevada tells an even darker story. 

Nevada veterans have one of the highest suicide rates, 59.8, in the country compared to the national rate of 38.4.

Contact 13 was at Secretary Shulkin's "Mayors' Challenge to Prevent Suicide" presentation. There he talked to veterans and state leaders about this heartbreaking problem.

Shulkin said there needs to be better access to mental health treatment because the ones who need it most are most likely not getting it. 

"Today, just 40% of people who leave the service are eligible for VA mental health care," says Shulkin. "That needs to be 100% because the single highest incidence of suicide, for veterans, is that first 12 months after leaving the service." 

He emphasized community networking is critical to reducing veteran suicide, calling on non-profits and churches to stay connected.

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