American civilians have seen the public service announcements on military suicides. Veterans remember the briefings and the countless number of AFN commercials on the subject. And today’s service members are constantly trained on recognizing the signs of suicide among their comrades, and the resources that are available to them if they or someone they know should need help. But for all the awareness, for all of the effort, our service members are losing the war against suicide.
An October, 2014 article in the Pentagon’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report (MSMR) provides eye-opening data on just how unsuccessful the results of the battle against military suicide are.
Before the current period of war, suicide was already the third-highest cause of death in the U.S. military. From 1998-2003, suicide was listed behind accidents and illnesses.
Not surprisingly, from 2004-2011, war was the leading cause of death. This span covers the height of fighting wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Suicide remained the third leading cause of death through this time period, behind illness.
But in recent years, the number of military deaths by suicide has exceeded those by war, accidents and illnesses, to become the leading cause of service member deaths. Approximately three out of every ten service member deaths are due to suicide.
The report cites data from Department of Defense Suicide Event Reports (DODSER). These reports revealed that between 2010 and 2012, there were 2,553 suicide attempts and 812 suicides within the military. The DODSER data also reflects that there were 53.6 suicide attempts and 17.1 suicides per every 100,000 service members.
The vast majority of suicide activity occurred away from combat zones. According to the report, 85% of the suicide attempts and 83% of the suicide deaths took place on U.S. soil.
Every suicide is a preventable death, especially when the bulk of those deaths are happening on our installations and in our communities. Please remain vigilant for the sake of the men and women in uniform, especially those of you in and near the military community.
If you observe someone who is in trouble, please refer them to the Crisis Hotline at www.veteranscrisisline.net or 1(800) 273-8255 (then 1). Those in need can even text to 838255 or utilize the Confidential Veterans Chat option.
The Crisis Line is for current military, Veterans and their families, but anyone can call for help for themselves or others contemplating suicide. All calls, texts, and chats are confidential.
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Military Connection: Military Suicide Spike: By Debbie Gregory