What is the Veterans suicide rate?Jul 16, 2023
On March 5, 2019, the President signed Executive Order 13861 to end the national tragedy of suicide. To achieve this goal, robust community engagement is needed. The U.S. Surgeon General's Call for Action on Suicide points out that suicide is just the tip of the iceberg, For every person who dies by suicide, thousands more experience suicidal thoughts or attempts. Countless others are affected, including family, friends, teachers, and coworkers.
The economic toll of suicide is immense as well. Suicide attempts and deaths are estimated to cost the nation more than $93 billion per year in medical costs and lost productivity. Imagine what we could do if we invested that kind of money into the health and well-being of Veterans.
A recent report from the Bob Woodruff Foundation issued June 21, 2023 sites that suicide is emerging as the second leading cause of death among veterans under the age of 44 in 2020. “Despite significant investment to combat this issue, the suicide rate for veterans remains unacceptably high, and among active-duty and reserve personnel, has either increased or remained steady over the past decade.” These are alarming statistics.
The Bob Woodruff Foundation proposes that nonprofit organizations and programs aimed at supporting veterans and service members should refine the language around suicide to better address the growing problem. They have coined the term suicide protection to differentiate programs from suicide prevention. Both suicide protection and suicide prevention play a vital role in solving the crisis of suicide.
Suicide rarely has a single cause. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified important characteristics that increase or protect against a person’s risk of suicide.
- Previous suicide attempt
- Chronic pain
- Financial problems or job loss
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Substance use
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Being a victim or perpetrator of violence
The Bob Woodruff Foundation report cites expert Thomas Joiner who has found that Veterans struggle when they feel like a burden to their families. When we add in the US Surgeon General's 2023 report warning of an epidemic of loneliness and isolation, the interpersonal factors contributing to the suicide problem come into focus.
- Loss of a loved one to suicide
- Loss of a relationship
- High-conflict or violent relationships
- Social isolation
- Feeling burdensome
The Bob Woodruff Foundation’s report indicates that the counterpart to suicide risk factors is protective factors such as ensuring social connection rather than isolation and feelings of usefulness rather than burdensome.
Veterans Talking to Veterans is a robust suicide protection program. The underlying training, Mentor Agility’s Trauma-Informed Coaching Certification, prepares Veterans and family members to address critical risk factors for suicide. In addition, the coaches have specific training that supports those at risk in seeking out suicide prevention.
By building the determinate of health - connectedness, financial well-being, and lifestyle factors - Veterans Talking to Veterans is a suicide protection program. These are the foundations of a thriving community.