Suicide is a crisis in the United States military, and it is long past time that the government took meaningful action to address this urgent problem (“Congress Acts on Veteran Suicides,” editorial, Feb. 9). Although veterans represent less than 13 percent of the population, they make up 20 percent of suicides in America every year.
Ninety percent of those who die by suicide have a serious mental illness that is diagnosable and treatable if we simply screen for mental health the way we screen for blood pressure.
I am the primary author of a suicide risk assessment scale that can determine suicidality in as few as two questions. The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale is already being used successfully across the military.
The Army Medical Command requires the use of the scale in all emergency departments, and the assistant secretary of defense has recommended the scale to the tri-service surgeon generals for use in all military facilities.
I am optimistic that after the president’s signing of the Clay Hunt legislation, systematic screening will aid the V.A. in easing the invisible wounds of war suffered by so many of those who have dedicated their lives to protecting our country.