About 1,000 veterans attempt suicide each month. When Ira Katz, the deputy chief for mental health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, learned the figure earlier this year, his first reaction was to contact the public relations office. "Shh!" he wrote in an e-mail. "Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" That approach, USA Today said in an editorial, "is just one indication that the agency in charge of caring for veterans is more interested in minimizing the extent of mental health problems that today's veterans face than it is in tackling them." Senator Bernie Sanders, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, questioned Katz at a hearing on Wednesday. "Is this an epidemic?" the senator asked.
The rate of suicide among veterans is double that of the general population, and even higher among vets ages 20 to 24, A CBS News investigation found.
A recent Rand Corp. study of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars concluded that nearly one in five veterans suffers from depression or stress disorders — an estimated 300,000 veterans among the 1.6 million who served in those wars.
To watch Sanders question Dr. Katz at a Veteran Affairs' Committee hearing, click here.