VA recently released the latest Veteran Suicide data report, reminding us there is much more work to be done to prevent suicide among veterans — including those from the National Guard and Reserves.
Our Senior Vice President of Research, Rajeev Ramchand, PhD, shares a few notable highlights from the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which includes the most recent analysis of Veteran suicide data from 2005 to 2017.
- The VA changed who it “counts” in its estimates of suicide to better reflect the legal definition. Previously, the “20 veteran suicides a day” statistic included current servicemembers, as well as members of the Reserve Component (including the National Guard) who never were activated. The new method reasonably excludes these groups and estimates that 16.8 veterans took their lives each day in 2017 (6,139 total). The VA then re-estimated its “suicide per day” metric using this new definition back to 2005. Under the new method, the number per day was highest in 2014, when it was 17.2 per day. It follows that total veteran suicides was highest in 2014. Between 2005 and 2017, there was a 6% increase in veteran suicides, relative to a 43.6% increase in suicides among American adults.
- The 2017 veteran suicide rate is 27.7 per 100,000. This is 1.5-times the rate of non-veteran adults, after adjusting for sex and age differences between the groups. Among women, the suicide rate among veterans is 2.2-times that of non-veterans; among men veterans, the rate is 1.3 times that of non-veterans.
- Veterans comprise less of the US general population in 2017 than they did in 2005. Thus, there’s an interesting finding that even though the suicide rate has increased among veterans, because the population is decreasing and the suicide rate did not increase as much as it did among non-veterans, the proportion of all U.S. suicides that are veterans is lower in 2017 (13.5%) than it was in 2005 (18.3%).
- Among veterans who died by suicide and used the VHA, 58.7% had a diagnosed mental health disorder: rates were highest among those veterans diagnosed with bipolar disorder or an opioid use disorder.
- The youngest veterans (18-34) had the highest suicide rate in 2017 (44.5 per 100,000) and the greatest increase in suicide rates since 2005. However, the highest number of suicides were among 55-74 year-old veterans.
- 69.4% of veterans who took their lives in 2017 used a firearm to do so.
As Dr. Ramchand illustrates above, veteran suicide remains a serious problem in our country. Our Cohen Clinics are here to help. Each Cohen Clinic is focused on saving lives, families, and futures by providing high-quality, accessible, outpatient mental health care services.
- Cohen Veterans Network provides care to all Post 9/11 veterans — including Guard and Reserve members, whether or not they were federally activated and regardless of discharge status.
- Although our veterans are disproportionately affected, suicide is a national public health problem. Our clinics are here not only here for veterans, but entire military families to include caregivers, partners, spouses, children and others, whether or not the veteran is engaged in care.
- Our clinics recognize the increased risk among women veterans and are committed to reaching women who have served. Among just our veteran clients, women make up 28% of the group, a percentage that is more than two times the size of the female veteran population in the United States.
- While Veterans comprise an even smaller proportion of the general population, CVN remains dedicated to meeting the unique needs of veterans and military families and trains every Cohen Clinic team member in military cultural competence.
- Access is a top priority. For those in crisis, our Cohen Clinics can schedule same-day appointments. For non-crisis appointments, 94% of CVN clients surveyed across the network report “getting a first appointment as soon as they wanted it.”
- Our clinicians know that ensuring safe environments is an evidence-based strategy for preventing suicides, and remains an area of focus in CVN’s approach to suicide prevention.
By Nicole Meek
CVN Marketing and Communications Coordinator