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Air Force suicides surged last year

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It's a story that hits particularly close to home in Colorado Springs. A new report shows suicide rates among active-duty airmen are on the rise - the highest in three decades. 

Researchers say they're not exactly sure why the Air Force specifically is seeing a spike, but they do say - it's time to take action. 

"El Paso County has the highest numbers of veteran deaths by suicide in the state," said Duane France, the Director of Veterans Services at the Colorado Veterans Heath and Wellness Agency

But as suicide rates continue to climb in the active-duty air force nationwide, it's clear there are many factors at play. 

"The research is showing there are about 20 different factors - a combination of those factors - that lead to someone having a suicidal crisis," said France.

France is a veteran himself. He says the new numbers, the highest they've been in 30 years, mean the time for action is now. 

"I think we're beyond the awareness piece. We know that there's an issue," he said. 

This new report, which focuses on 2019, indicates there were 84 suicides among active-duty members - that's up from 60 the year before. 

"The jump that the Air Force had from the previous year is significant, especially being here in Colorado Springs with Peterson and the Air Force Academy," France said, "This is a very large Air Force town."

Last year, the Air Force did go public, expressing concern. The Air Force Chief of Staff saying in part, "Hopeful to hopeless."

France says it takes a community, listening, coming together and improving connectedness.

There are resources here in the Springs. Nationally, there is the Veterans Crisis Line.

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Kristen Skovira

Kristen is a reporter and an anchor for the weekend evening newscasts. You can learn more about Kristen here.

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