Suicide rates among active-duty military members and veterans are the highest since record-keeping began following 9/11. Sadly, the numbers have steadily increased over the past five years. Why? A 2021 research study by Brown University found that 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans who served in the military after 9/11 have died by suicide, compared to the 7,057 service members killed in combat during the same 20 years.
Thus, military and veteran suicide rates are now four-times higher than deaths during military operations. For those families, whose loved one has already sacrifices so much to protect our freedom, this trend is devastating.
There are several causes that can lead a person to commit suicide. For active-duty service members, there’s the additional layer of personal and psychological stressors beyond the risk inherent in their profession.
Service members stationed in foreign countries or deployed to combat zones often experience additional loneliness and isolation. This loneliness and isolation, while dealing with the stress and dangers of their daily duties is often an overwhelming combination.
According to a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, “social connections can act as a buffer against the impact of stressful or negative life experiences on mental health.” Social connection is cited as a crucial method in preventing suicide.
Having a safe, supportive environment according to the World Health Organization (WHO) plays a critical role in suicide prevention. When people feel secure in their surroundings, they experience less anxiety, depression, recognize improvement in their physical health, have fewer instances of substance abuse and experience an overall better quality of life and longevity.
Within the U.S. military, a safe, supportive environment isn’t always guaranteed and can be difficult to come by, especially during moments of extreme change, such as deployments or assignment relocations. The Mayo Clinic cites, “most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling like you can’t cope when you’re faced with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation.”
Understanding the culture and thought process leading to military and veteran suicide is critical to prevention. Together, we can significantly reduce this growing trend through education and action. More importantly, we can put an end to this needless and tragic loss of life.
Our suicide prevention goal at God’s Word For Warriors is to Educate, Motivate, and Eliminate. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.