- Monday, 02 December 2019
- Written by Jeff Thompson
The 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report includes the most recent analysis of veteran suicide data from 2005 to 2017. The report presents complex suicide data in a practical way, conveys the key findings in clear terms, and highlights the data-driven initiatives that VA and its partners have implemented to prevent veteran suicide. This detailed report is available to the public at VASPDataRequest@va.gov.
The most recent state-level data includes veteran suicide data from 2005 through 2017. The State Data Appendix includes a comparative analysis of suicide rates for veterans and the general adult population. North Carolina has seen a gradual increase in veteran suicides, from 188 in 2005 to 212 in 2017. The Department of Veterans Affairs said it’s important to note that suicide is a complex issue with a multitude of contributing factors — and there is no single explanation for disparities in veteran suicide rates among the different states.
There is one statistic that has been widely quoted in the veteran community, that an estimated 22 veterans a day commit suicide. The statistic, some contend, can be misunderstood. This figure comes from the VA’s 2012 Suicide Data Report, which analyzed the death certificates of 21 states from 1999 to 2011. The report, as cited by The Washington Post, warned that “it is recommended that the estimated number of veterans be interpreted with caution due to the use of data from a sample of states and existing evidence of uncertainty in veteran identifiers on U.S. death certificates.”
A more recent study, which surveyed 1.3 million veterans, found that “Between 2001 and 2009, there were 1,650 deployed veteran deaths and 7,703 nondeployed veteran deaths. Of those, 351 were suicides among veterans who had been deployed and 1,517 suicides among nondeployed veterans. That means over nine years, there was not quite one veteran suicide a day,” according to The Washington Post. The rate of suicide was, as The Los Angeles Times reported, “…slightly higher among veterans who never deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, suggesting that the causes extend beyond the trauma of war.”
As the largest national analysis of veteran suicide rates, the VA report examines veterans suicide rates by age, gender and method, suicide rates among veterans compared with rates in the non-veteran population and suicide rates among veterans who use VHA health care compared with those who do not. “The aggregate remains about 20 suicide deaths per day … including the average of 16.8 veterans who died by suicide in 2017,” reported Richard A. Stone, VA Under-Secretary for Health.
Suicide is preventable, and with the release of the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, the VA urges all Americans to take action to prevent suicide. Learn more about veteran suicide prevention efforts at www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention. If you are a veteran in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, send a text message to 838255.