Since the Department of Veterans Affairs has increased its focus on mental health over the last few years,  officials for the department said they have seen improvement in the treatment of veterans at risk for suicide, Stars and Stripes reported.

However, officials also estimated that of the veterans who do commit suicide, only one-third had turned to the VA for help.

The announcement was made by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki at the annual defense and veterans suicide prevention conference Wednesday.  According to Stars and Stripes, the theme for the conference was “back to basics” – an attempt to ensure all VA caregivers are knowledgeable of the primary techniques for preventing suicide.

While the department has had progress, there is still frustration when it comes to stopping suicide after years of work.  According to Pentagon officials, 154 military officials committed suicide in just the first 155 days of 2012 – the highest toll for the armed services since 9/11.

With such staggering statistics, Shinseki called for more research into the mentality behind suicide and a national commitment to end this terrible trend.

“Mental health professionals tell me that intervention works,” Shinseki said at the conference. “The challenge is knowing when and where to intervene. We have demonstrated that we can react well, but is this good enough for the long term?”

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