The U.S. Army reported today that active-duty and reserve suicides climbed in January 2012 . Last month, 22 soldiers - 16 active-duty and 6 reservists – were suspected of committing suicide. This figure is higher than December and continues to underscore an alarming, upward trend.
Army Suicides from Jan 2009 to January 2012
The report comes just days after IAVA announced a powerful new partnership with the Veterans Crisis Line , which provides critical support to members of the military community who are in crisis, including those at risk for suicide. The partnership will provide a warm-line for IAVA staff to connect IAVA’s over 200,000 members and supporters nationwide with immediate crisis support. Already, the Veterans Crisis Line provides free, confidential crisis support 24/7 through phone, text and online chats (dial 1-800-273-8255, press 1).
IAVA’s partnership is one model for how the Crisis Line is working with community groups to help fight veteran suicide at a time when thousands of troops are returning home. But more data and research from within the community are critical to improve and expand prevention efforts. During the past three years, the Army has publicly tracked suicides. The other services provide patchier data. On the veteran side, information is even more limited. According to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 6,000 veterans committed suicide in 2009; comprehensive data about more recent years has not been released. The facts available, however, clearly indicate the problem is more rampant than in the Army’s ranks.
In 2007, IAVA fought hard for landmark legislation to begin to tackle suicides in the military community. The Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act  was named after a 22-year-old Army reservist Joshua Omvig, who was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and committed suicide after returning from a tour in Iraq. After his suicide, Omvig’s parents started a site dedicated to their son and discovered that others in the military community found it to be an outlet for their own grief and desire to act. One of the sections of the namesake legislation is the Veterans Crisis Line. Managed by the VA, it has quickly become an indispensable tool for veterans, service members and their families in times of crisis and need. More than half a million people have called the line since 2007 and tens of thousands have used the chat feature. Overall, the Crisis Line has saved an untold number of lives.
Like many community groups serving veterans, IAVA is along on the frontlines supporting veterans in crisis. In the last year alone, we helped over 20,000 veterans seeking mental health support including through our private online network Community of Veterans. Members have been turning to IAVA because they know and trust our community, and our partnership with the Veterans Crisis Line will strengthen our ability to respond to their needs in a time of crisis. The new partnership will provide IAVA staff with a critical backstop to ensure that when veterans do call or reach out inside Community of Veterans, we have the tools to immediately help them. We know that there is no simple solution to the military suicide epidemic. This is an ongoing fight –but our partnership with the Veterans Crisis Line is a critical step forward to help more veterans, service members and family members.
If you are a veteran transitioning home and looking for community, sign up for IAVA’s Community of Veterans for access to critical resources on PTSD, TBI & more: click here to join . And save this number: 800-273-TALK, press 1, for round-the-clock support from the Veterans Crisis Line. You can also join Veteran Crisis Line's online chat - any questions, any time, completely confidential: click here for more information .