Veterans’ Suicide Rate Still Increasing

Based on data from the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, released in September, the suicide rate is still increasing, noted

The total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years studied, but more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually. The reported noted that more than 6,100 veterans died by suicide in 2017, an increase of 2% over 2016 and a total increase of 6% since 2008, the report found.

Key results from the report include the following:

• The number of Veteran suicides exceeded 6,000 each year from 2008 to 2017.

• Among U.S. adults, the average number of suicides per day rose from 86.6 in 2005 to 124.4 in 2017. These numbers included 15.9 Veteran suicides per day in 2005 and 16.8 in 2017.

• In 2017, the suicide rate for Veterans was 1.5 times the rate for non-Veteran adults, after adjusting for population differences in age and sex.

• Firearms were the method of suicide in 70.7% of male Veteran suicide deaths and 43.2% of female Veteran suicide deaths in 2017.

• In addition to the aforementioned Veteran suicides, there were 919 suicides among never federally activated formerNational Guard and Reserve members in 2017, an average 2.5 suicide deaths per day.

In a cover letter for the report, Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said, “We cannot do this alone; we call on our community partners to join us in this effort.”

Stone said the the report changes the approach that previously grouped together current service members, former Guard and Reserve members (who were never Federally Activated), and Veterans eligible for care and services from VA.

The Department of Defense will publish a separate report of current service member suicide deaths. There are about 20 suicide deaths per day under that broader definition. The current report aims to give a more individualized look at the data of various sub-populations, Stone said. And so better inform targeted interventions to address suicide risk.

“Suicide is a national public health problem that disproportionately affects those who served our Nation. Preventing suicide among Veterans is VA’s top clinical priority. Our commitment in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is to help Veterans establish and maintain a healthy balance of unique protective factors to equip and empower them to live their fullest lives. We cannot do this alone; we call on our community partners to join us in this effort,” wrote Dr. Stone.

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