2017 may seem like a distant memory to many of us, but now is about the time when we’ll start seeing reports about what happened last year. Leading the roll out is Department of Defense’s (DoD) Quarterly Suicide Report, which included the number of service members who died by suicide for the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2017 (October through December). Since it’s the last quarter of the year, we also get a preview of the 2017 annual report because we see the total numbers for those service members who died by suicide last year.
The numbers are sobering. While the number of Reservists and National Guard who died by suicide decreased as compared to Q4 in 2016, the number of active duty service members who died by suicide increased. And overall, 2017 saw an increased number of service members that died by suicide across the board, including Active, Guard, and Reserve.
The number of active duty service members that died by suicide in Q4 of 2017 is 83, with 34 of those in the Army. Thirty five Reservists died by suicide in Q4 as did 19 National Guardsmen. In 2017, 285 active duty service members died by suicide, an increase of 5 service members. Two-hundred and nineteen reservists died by suicide, up from 202 the year before. And 126 National Guardsmen died by suicide, up from 122 in 2016.
All of this paints a grim picture. While DoD has expanded its suicide prevention efforts and launched new programs to offer help and services to those that may need it, suicide in the armed forces is on the rise. We will have to wait until DoD releases it’s 2017 annual report for the full breakdown, but these numbers don’t lie.
IAVA Has Your Back
While these numbers are a distressing reminder of the challenges facing our men and women in uniform, they are also a call to action. There is still work to be done on preventing and addressing suicide within DoD.
We know this, and it’s why sustaining the campaign to combat suicide among troops and veterans is at the top of our list among our Big 6 priorities for 2018. We will continue to act as the watchdog among DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that mental health services are accessible and available to all veterans and service members. We will continue to unite and empower the post-9/11 generation in-person and online. And our Rapid Response Referral Program will continue to provide veterans and service members in need with the services and resources available to them.
But we can’t do it alone; join us. Sign up to join our Big 6 campaign here. And Take Action here. If you or someone you know needs help, our RRRP team is standing by; and for immediate assistance, contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or text to 838255.