Older Men Die by Suicide at Steep Rates. Here’s How the VA Is Trying to Change That

June 14, 2024

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

Los Angeles Times

The Veterans Administration (VA) has taken a multi-pronged approach to addressing suicide among older men. Strategies include doing suicide risk assessments in its pain, sleep, and oncology clinics to identify older veterans who may be struggling due to physical health conditions. The VA has also located mental health services in the same facilities as routine care so it’s easier and more “normalized” for patients to connect with mental health supports during a regular visit.

As men age, suicide rates increase, with those ages 75 and older dying by suicide at more than twice the rate as men under 25. According to experts, factors associated with suicide risk among older men may include loneliness, physical health issues, access to firearms, and a lack of screening among older adults. While U.S. veterans have higher suicide rates than national averages, that is not the case for older male veterans, who have lower rates than the general population.

In addition to health care interventions, the VA has carried out other prevention efforts, such as encouraging older veterans to securely store firearms and other lethal means. Some VA campuses are offering opportunities for older veterans to connect with each other remotely or in-person through exercise classes and other recreational activities.

Spark Extra! Watch veterans’ lived experience stories about retirement and aging.