The Fourth of July: a time for barbecues, friends, family, and celebration. But Independence Day is also a time for reflection: to look back on where our country began and look forward to where we are going. So as we celebrate, let’s also reflect on where we have been and remember those that serve and protect our nation everyday.
And while suicide in the military is a hard topic, it deserves some reflection. Today, the Department of Defense released the Suicide Event Report for calendar year 2016. This is the third big suicide report released in the last month, but the only one focusing solely on the military.
The Report Breakdown
So here it is: in 2016, 478 servicemembers died by suicide. That’s about the same as 2015. The highest rate occurs among our youngest servicemembers, those aged 20 through 24. Over one-half had no known mental health injury and over 40 percent had some form of relationship trouble. A firearm was the method in over 60 percent of suicides. Overall, when adjusting for age, gender, and other differences, the suicide rates in the military population tracked with the U.S. population. In fact, much of these trends track with both the U.S. population and the veteran population.
The Department of Defense also has a robust suicide prevention office and program. The #BeThere campaign is a peer-to-peer resource center and the Presidential Executive Order targeting transitioning service members has increased services within DoD as well. There is certainly more to do on combating military and veteran suicide; this report shows that we aren’t making the progress that we’ve hoped for. But there are steps being taken within DoD, VA, and the military and veteran communities to combat this epidemic.
As we celebrate Independence Day surrounded by family and friends, let’s remember those that have served and continue to do so both at home and abroad. The cost of war comes in many different forms, and as a community we must do better to support our men and women in uniform. No one knows it better than veterans, servicemembers, and their families: freedom isn’t free.
We know veteran suicide is a top concern for IAVA members which is why it’s part of IAVA’s Big 6. If you are in need of assistance, our RRRP team is standing by. And if you are experiencing a crisis, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 838255.