The statement “20 Veterans die by suicide a day” has become a common phrase across the country, but these numbers do not tell the full story. Every time a Veteran or active duty military member dies by suicide, their family members are left devastated and the negative impact from this tragic loss ripples throughout their community.
Mental health professionals and researchers across the country have been trying to solve the suicide problem for years. Yet, recent data from the CDC shows that suicides increased in every state except for Nevada between 1999 and 2016i.
For Veterans and active duty military members, the situation is even more dire. In February, for example, it was reported that suicides have tripled amongst US Special Operations Command military personnel. The 2018 VA National Suicide Data Report showed that “… the suicide rate was 1.5 times greater for Veterans than for non-Veteran adults, adjusting for age and genderiii.” For women Veterans, the suicide rate is even worse, at 1.8 times greater than for non-Veteran women.
Studies to date have primarily focused on the mental health of the individual with less attention to the role of the communities where Veterans live. Operation Deep Dive seeks to fill these research gaps at the community level. We hope that study findings will provide communities with actionable insights they can use to more proactively reduce suicides and deaths from self-harm. We will be sharing findings throughout the study so that communities can take action immediately.
Excerpt from Testimony on Preventing Suicide Among Veterans from Lt Col James Lorraine, USAF (retired) President & CEO America’s Warrior Partnership Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs:
“I am a veteran of nine combat deployments dating back to 1991 in conflicts and locations such as Desert Storm, Somalia, Haiti, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I’ve had brothers and sisters-in-arms who’ve taken their own lives, leaving all who loved them to speculate why. Just last week, I talked to a close friend and begged him to promise me he would get more assistance and not take his life. I’ve had a hero of mine leave me a note explaining that he could not take the constant head pain caused by his numerous blast injuries and asked that I forgive him for quitting. For me and America’s Warrior Partnership, the prevention of suicide is not only necessary, it is personal.”
i Center for Disease Control, CDC Vital Signs, June 7, 2018, 2.
ii CNN, US Special Ops suicides triple in 2018, as military confronts the issue, retrieved February 2, 2019 from https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/02/politics/socom-military-suicide-spike-2018/index.html
iii Veterans Affairs Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, VA National Suicide Data Report 2005 – 2016, September 2018, 3.
iv Veterans Affairs Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, VA National Suicide Data Report 2005 – 2016, September 2018, 3.