Conduct a Google search for the term “military suicide,” and you will be astounded by the seemingly endless sea of statistics that occasionally threatens to drown out one simple truth: Even one military death by suicide is one too many.
But the facts remain.
A 2015 report by the Department of Defense shows military suicide rates are still unimaginably high after steadily mounting in the years following the 2004 invasion of Iraq.
Those numbers spiked in 2012, ultimately surpassing combat-related deaths, and the pervasive trend – though remaining relatively stable in recent years – has left many medical professionals wondering whether these tragic figures have become a new standard.
Reasons surrounding military suicides are nebulous, at best. Much research has been conducted to examine how war trauma relates to suicide, though results remain unclear. Research regarding Veterans with PTSD, specifically, however, suggests that the strongest link to suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts is guilt related to combat.
A 2013 study published online by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), confirmed what many medical experts long believed – that the underlying causes related to increased military suicide rates were unrelated to deployment, and were instead similar to those facing the civilian population: mental illness and psychological disorders (such as PTSD), substance abuse, and problems related to finances and personal relationships.
Earlier this year, The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) conducted a comprehensive analysis of Veteran suicide rates in America, examining over 55 million Veteran records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation. Their findings, as well as those culled from the DOD and JAMA, reveal the following startling facts:
- In 2014, suicide became the leading cause of death throughout the U.S. military. In 2012 and 2013, the number of deaths as a result of suicide exceeded those resulting from illness, homicide, vehicular accidents – and combat.
- According to the VA, at 18 percent, veterans account for nearly 1 in 5 of all suicides in America – even though they comprise only 8.5 percent of the population.
- After adjusting for differences in age, the risk for suicide was 18% higher among male veterans when compared to U.S. civilian adult males, and 2.4 times higher among female veterans when compared to U.S. civilian adult females. The risk of suicide, in general, is 21% higher among veterans when compared with civilian adults.
- According to the VA’s most recent analysis, in 2014, 20 veterans died by suicide every day.
Though the VA – and other organizations that share its goals – endeavors to assist America’s fighting men and women, one additional fact lingers: Increased demand for care and a nationwide shortage of qualified mental health practitioners has left our country’s veteran population struggling with abundant and severe emotional problems. Though recent, urgent calls have been made for governmental reform, our heroes are hurting right now.
Veteran Health Services, Inc., a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is not affiliated in any way with the U.S. Military or VA. Our unique, independent structure is designed to foster a sense of sanctuary and refuge for those who seek our care while still struggling with concerns about anonymity, while our clinicians will be equipped with no less than 80 hours training in military culture and veteran-specific care so that they are properly “armed” to help our veterans and their families fight to develop their new normal.
Together, we’ll change the facts.