To the Editor:
Re “Suicide shocks Montana into assessing care for returning Iraqi War veterans” (news article, Jan. 2):
As the awareness of veteran suicide increases throughout the United States, it is important to emphasize that suicide, including veteran suicide, is a serious public-health problem.
In addition to the implementation of a veterans' option being added to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-237-TALK), in November, the president signed the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act that directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for preventing veteran suicide.
However, to ensure that we have the most comprehensive data to inform our suicide prevention strategies, we must expand federal funding for the National Violent Death Reporting System. NVDRS tracks all circumstances surrounding a suicide - including if someone who died by suicide was a veteran, was being treated for depression or had discussed their intention with someone else - to create a complete picture of violent death. With the details collected, public health officials, veterans' service organizations and others can better understand the factors related to suicide and create the best prevention strategies.
NVDRS is funded in 17 states, but unfortunately not Montana. The CDC, which runs the program, estimates at least $20 million is required annually to fully implement and maintain NVDRS in all 50 states; yet congressional funding remains flat.
Only with full funding of NVDRS will we acknowledge all veterans who have fallen for our country so we can take the necessary steps to prevent future suicides.