New data from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows a decrease in veteran suicides to the lowest level in 12 years.
The VA’s annual report includes comprehensive data on the issue from 2001 through 2019 and shows a drop in the total number of veteran deaths by suicide in 2019, as well as in the rate of veteran suicides per 100,000.
According to the report, 6,261 veterans died by suicide in 2019, which is 399 fewer than in 2018. The overall veteran suicide rate dropped by 7% in 2019.
The age-adjusted suicide rate among male veterans decreased 3.8% in 2019 from the prior year, and 14.9% among female veterans during the same period. Among non-veteran U.S. adults, the adjusted suicide mortality rate fell by 1.8%.
“This drop is noteworthy when compared to the generally rising rates observed in earlier years,” the department wrote.
Adjusting for gender and age differences, the suicide rate among veterans in 2019 was 52.3% higher than for nonveteran U.S. adults. The rate difference was at its highest in 2017, at 66.3%.
Firearms were also reported to be more involved in veteran suicides in 2019 than in 2018, according to the VA.
“Suicide prevention remains a top priority for VA, with the most significant amount of resources ever appropriated and apportioned to VA suicide prevention,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in the release. “VA continues to implement its 10-year strategy — as outlined in the 2018 National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide — to end Veteran suicide through a public health approach combining both community-based and clinically-based strategies across prevention, intervention and post-intervention areas of focus.”
The report noted that, to date, the department has not observed increases in Veterans Health Administration-documented suicide-related indicators over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the VA would examine suicide mortality when national death certificate data becomes available.
“VA continues to implement its 10-year vision specifically through the department’s strategic plan focused on efforts such as the Suicide Prevention 2.0 initiative; Suicide Prevention Now initiative; the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS); 988 and Veterans Crisis Line expansion,” the department said.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis, call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org. Veterans can also contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.