It’s important that we take a moment to celebrate the fact that, per the 2022 National Suicide Prevention Annual Report published by VA this week, fewer Veteran lives were lost to suicide in 2020 than the previous year.
It’s equally important that we remain focused on the problem we face. Context, as VA notes in its report, is key.
We still lost 6,146 American Veterans to their own hands in 2020 - that we know of. Suicide deaths are still, sadly, underreported.
Despite having fewer deaths, the Veteran suicide rate increased to 57% higher than that of non-Veterans in 2020, compared to 53% in 2019.
Other concerning trends that jump off the pages of this year’s report include:
In 2020, suicide remained the second-leading cause of death for Veterans under age 45 - the vast majority of America’s post-9/11 warriors.
Firearms were involved in 71% of Veteran suicide deaths in 2020, compared to 50% among non-Veterans.
More than 60% of Veterans who died by suicide in 2020 had no contact with VA.
The Veteran suicide rate was highest in the VA’s priority eligibility group 5, which covers income-based eligibility.
The Veteran suicide rate also remained higher in rural areas than in urban centers, according to VA’s data.
We don’t list these concerns to discount the progress that was made in 2020. Having fewer Veterans die by suicide than the previous year is unquestionable progress. VA’s attention to this problem and push for innovation, through initiatives such as Mission Daybreak, will only make us stronger.
We are, though, more convinced than ever that Stop Soldier Suicide is uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of the fight against military suicide.
We’ve partnered with some of the leading minds in the suicide prevention field, and some of the most powerful tech companies in the world, with a sole focus on reducing the military suicide rate.
Our free, confidential, trauma-informed care, delivered through telehealth solutions, is available to all Veterans and service members, regardless of discharge status or length of service.
Our artificial intelligence and data forensics initiative, called Black Box Project, is poised to give us novel insight into suicide risk among Veterans and service members, answering previously unanswerable questions..
So, as we remain thankful for those still with us, we keep our eyes forward. There’s too much important, life-saving work to be done. As always, we’ll be here to answer the call.