INDIANAPOLIS — The rate of veteran suicide nationwide may be more than double than what was previously reported, according to a new report. However, this only paints part of the picture in Indiana.
America's Warrior Partnership works with communities across the country, including Indiana, to prevent veteran suicide.
Its study was the result of several years of research, gathering death data from eight states.
The report, Operation Deep Dive, shows former service members take their own lives each year at a rate approximately 2.4 times greater than previously reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The study found that the difference in the data is likely due to the way deaths are reported to the state.
Cheree Tham, the Vice President of Programs and Initiatives for America's Warrior Partnership, said the issue is two-fold. "When we've been looking at this data and we've been talking to medical examiners and coroners, if they could err on the side of not document it as suicide, then they document it as an accident because of the stigma associated with death by suicide," Tham said.
According to Tham, sometimes those who have passed away aren't reported as veterans.
"Some may ask the family members, 'Did the person serve in the military?' Some may ask if they were a veteran. Some may not even ask at all, and there's not even a box on there to mark it. So, when that death certificate goes up to the state, it's not necessarily notated that they did in fact serve in the military," Tham said.
That makes it difficult to know the full extent of the issue.
"This information is informing all of us to be able to drill down into our communities and know our veterans ahead of our crisis," Tham said.
Matt Hall is a veteran himself and the executive director of the Indy Warrior Partnership. He said everyone can do a small part by showing veterans people care.
"I'll say the military does a great job at training us to be service members. We go through an eight-week indoctrination of how to be a service member. There is no eight-week indoctrination on how to transition to civilian life," Hall said. "Now, everybody in central Indiana knows somebody who can help a veteran with transition."
The report does not include Indiana. According to Tham and Hall, that's because the state will not give out full social security numbers for death data. While they support protecting someone's identity, these social security numbers were only used to confirm they're a veteran with the Department of Defense. Without it, Hall said there's no way to know.
According to Hall, the VA connects to between 40 to 60% of veterans nationally. In central Indiana, Hall said the VA is connected to around 115,000 veterans.
"If we double it, we're thinking there's 230,000 veterans in the central Indiana area, and there's over 100,000 veterans the VA's not connected to," Hall said. "So, where are those veterans? How are they doing? How are they being successful? How are they not being successful? How do we help them? How do we show the resources and provide community to them?"
Hall urges Hoosiers to write local lawmakers to write an amendment to the law to use these numbers for this purpose only.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month.
If you're a veteran in crisis or concerned about one, dial 988, then press 1.