Today, the Department of Defense released the 2019 Annual Suicide Report, which shows that while there was no statistical change in suicide rates among active duty service members from 2018 to 2019, there has been an increase from 2014 to 2019.
The report references a “continued heightened risk for young and enlisted members” as suicide decedents are primarily enlisted, male, and younger than 30. The DoD is in its second year of tracking military family suicide, and this year’s rates are also comparable to last year’s statistics. The report is cautiously optimistic about strides made in the National Guard, where rates are now comparable to the U.S. population. You can access the report here
Senior leaders at DoD
were already discussing an estimated 20% increase in military suicides in the first half of 2020. And while causation is complicated with suicide, they suspected that the increased isolation and stress caused by COVID-19 was at least in part to blame. The DoD also cautions that it is too early to determine if suicide rates will be higher for 2020.
It has been a high demand high stress year for our military – a perfect storm that has combined the normal demands of our force with natural disasters, civil protests, and a global pandemic. For many veteran and military families, the pandemic has also left its mark with remote schooling, child care challenges, loss of secondary sources of income, and the resulting financial impacts of that as well.
On a more positive note, greater access to telehealth has resulted in fewer missed appointments and less stigma involved with mental health services that can be utilized from home.
The Defense Suicide Prevention Office has put together a helpful Fact Sheet that summarizes high-level findings, addresses frequently asked questions, and provides resources and helpful information about how to communicate about suicide in a way that is sensitive and promotes hopeful messages and help-seeking behaviors. You can access that resource here
While the services and community organizations work diligently to address this problem, you have a vital role to play in the reduction of suicides. Keep an eye on each other and reach out to those you know may be having a tough time. And if it’s you who is struggling – reach out
From Military OneSource: “The Military Crisis Line connects those in need to a trained counselor with a single phone call or click of a mouse. This confidential, immediate help is available 24/7 at no cost to active duty, Guard and reserve members, their families and friends.”