Note: I want to credit Cassandra Bayer, Marta Galan, and Brett Webster. They were my amazing teammates for the capstone presentation in our Quantitative Methods class last fall. I came up with the topic of veteran suicides, and they did the real work of framing the topic in a statistical- and policy-oriented manner that I could never have done on my own. I mostly try to steer away from pilfering their excellent work here, but at least some of the ideas below are theirs.
This post was originally published here on January 11, 2016.
Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. This statistic is derived from a Veterans Affairs report published in 2012. It has been perpetuated by the news media, politicians, and social media, and it is the namesake and focus of numerous organizations. “22 a Day” has even spawned a handful of “awareness” fitness routines, including CrossFit WODs and yoga challenges.
Although she wasn’t the first journalist to challenge the efficacy and accuracy of the statistic, WaPo’s Michelle Ye He Lee fact-checked the figure early last year. Hers was followed by several similar articles, many of which drew the same conclusions I did upon first reading the 2012 VA report for context. Interestingly, the 2012 report is chock full of warnings and caveats about the incompleteness and potential problems with the figures it presents.
Here are my chief concerns with “22 a Day.”