Military Veterans at Risk of Increased Suicide, Substance Use Disorder in Economic Downturn

CVN partnered with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) and issued a report indicating that for every 5% increase in the national unemployment rate, as many as 550 additional U.S. veterans could be lost to suicide annually,and 20,000 more veterans could suffer from substance use disorder as compared to pre-COVID levels.

“While sometimes ignored or minimized in importance, financial health should be viewed as a fundamental indicator of behavioral health and well being of both veteran and general population health,” said Dr. Anthony Hassan, CEO and President of Cohen Veterans Network. “Our country’s leaders must resist the tendency to reduce behavioral health care funding when local, state and federal budgets become tight.”

Using data from recent recessions, the report projects potential impacts across a range of sustained unemployment rate increases, ranging from moderate (5%), to severe (10%), to extreme (20%), a rate approaching the unemployment rates experienced during the Great Depression. The report also notes that rates of depression among veterans will be many times higher than the number of deaths.

CVN released the America’s Mental Health Pulse Survey in April, which revealed that 70% of Americans are worried about their physical health due to COVID-19, and 58% of Americans are concerned about their mental health because of social distancing. Additionally, the survey indicated that while 14% of the general population sought mental health care during COVID-19, 50% + sought mental health care in the military-connected community.

Resources for veterans in crisis or in need of support include: