The week isn’t even half over yet, but there has been a lot going on. With the release of the President’s budget on Monday, the current immigration discussion in Congress, a budget deal reached late last week, and let’s not forget the Olympics, it was easy to miss the latest suicide report out from the Department of Defense (DoD). While it may not get much primetime attention, suicide reports always provide important information.
What You Need to Know
Each quarter, DoD releases a suicide report, which allows for consistent reporting on the number of suicides within DoD. This report is just meant to give us the numbers. The full report for 2017, which will have demographic information and greater insights, will be released later this year.
Overall, 131 active, Reserve, and Guard service members died by suicide in Quarter 3 (Q3) of calendar year 2017 (July through September). Broken out further, 67 active duty service members died by suicide, 26 Reservists, and 38 National Guardsmen died by suicide. Q3 continues a troubling trend; those that died by suicide is increasing for Guard and Reserve. At the end of Q3 in 2016, 152 Guard and Reservists died by suicide. By Q3 for 2017, that number is 183.
Again, we will have to wait until later this year to see the full report, but these numbers give us some insight on a troubling trend and a sobering question: are our National Guard and Reservists being left behind?
Where to Go From Here
DoD has invested a lot of time and money in their suicide prevention programming. And they have made great strides. Most recently, DoD launched the “Be There” Peer Support Call and Outreach Center and DoD is coordinating with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Homeland Security to provide mental health services to transitioning service members. These programs extend to Guard and Reservists.
So what’s going on? I’m not sure we can answer that question right now. We will look to the DoD Suicide Event Report, released annually, with more information on the service members who died by suicide in 2017.
What we do know is that our Guardsmen and Reservists are an integral part of our community. According to our latest Member Survey, 59 percent of IAVA members are or were a member of the National Guard or Reserves. Of that 59 percent, 74 percent deployed as a Guardsman or Reservist.
And we know there is progress to be made toward suicide prevention. Passage of the Clay Hunt SAV Act in 2015 was the first step, but we are still monitoring its implementation. And while the President’s Executive Order aimed to providing transitioning service members with mental health care is a step in the right direction, we will be keeping an eye on its its roll out. Mental health and suicide prevention has been a top priority at IAVA for a long time, and we will continue to fight for expanded access and services.