Veteran suicides hard to track and local numbers show major prob - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

Veteran suicides hard to track and local numbers show major problem

Veteran's Affairs says veterans suicides is their highest priority and locally it's a sad truth as well.

The VA Central Healthcare System released the number of suicides of veterans in their system in the past five years after an open records request. The numbers show a slight increase with a peak in 2012.

FY 2009 - 7
FY 2010- 6
FY 2011- 10
FY 2012- 16
FY 2013- 8
FY 2014 (as of February 18, 2014) - 6

McLennan County veterans service officer Steve Hernandez says it is a major issue. He says he's dealt with two veterans who have committed suicide but also prevented three others. However, Hernandez says it's hard to keep track of suicides, because many aren't enrolled in the VA system.

Hernandez also says many veterans are killed related to their combat service but they aren't suicides. Those include a veteran driving too fast on a motorcycle to get the adrenaline rush or self-medicating with drugs and overdosing.

While it is difficult, Hernandez says it's important to try and keep track.

 "At least work toward a solution. We've got to work toward a solution, we just can't make it a social number that's occurring that no one, everybody keeps shaking their head, not knowing why but nobody taking a step forward to find out why," Hernandez said.

The VA system has allocated $7.2 billion for mental health programs. They offer a number of services for veterans in need including a 24 hour crisis hotline that also offers texts. That number is 1-800-273-8255.

Hernandez says it may be difficult to identify a person at risk for suicide. Here are a few signs:

-Thinking about hurting or killing yourself.
- Talking about death, dying or suicide.
- Self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse, weapons, etc.
- Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, mood swings.
- Feeling like there is no reason to live.
- Rage or anger.
- Engaging in risky activities without thinking.
- Withdrawing from family and friends.
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