MVFORCES: Military & Veteran Forces Blogosphere

7 minutes reading time (1374 words)

Combatting the Tragedy of Military and Veteran Suicide

Psychologist supporting patient in depression

On March 1, 2021, the United States Department of Defense, commonly referred to as the Pentagon, announced the launch of a significant study on veteran suicides. The study aims to identify the specific factors that contribute to a higher risk of suicide among veterans compared to the general population. 

The study will be the largest to date, with a sample size of over 50 million military service members providing data on their health and experiences during deployment and after separation from active duty. 

This extensive study will involve collaboration between multiple government agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as academic institutions and private organizations. 

The data collected will be analyzed to identify patterns and trends in veteran suicide rates, with the ultimate goal of developing effective interventions and support programs to reduce the number of veteran suicides. The study is expected to take several years, and the results are available to the public.

Approximately 20 veterans take their own lives each day.

According to recent studies, an average of 20 veterans die by suicide each day, equating to approximately 1,000 veterans taking their own lives each month. 

To provide context, the total number of U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan since 2001 is 1,856, including deaths among troops on the ground. It does not include casualties from air strikes or other operations. 

The data for these studies was obtained from two separate reports. One report published by researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) examined all deaths among veterans between 2008 and 2015. 

Another report, published by the Department of Defense (DoD), focused on active-duty troops over the same period and also included data from 2015 onward when possible. 

Both studies yielded similar results, with 20 deaths per day reported in the VA's report and 19 deaths per day reported in the DoD's report.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have collaborated to study suicide in their populations.

The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have initiated a joint study on suicide among their respective populations. In 2017, they released a report titled "Suicide Among Active Duty Military Service Members and Veterans: Trends in Risk Factors and Methods Over Time." 

This report provides an overview of recent trends in suicide among active duty military personnel and veterans from 2000 through 2016, as well as information on their characteristics at the time of death. 

The collaboration between the DOD and VA is crucial as it allows for a deeper understanding of the potential differences in risk factors for suicide or other mental health issues, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), between the two groups.

In 2018, the DOD began the most extensive study, at its time, of suicides in military history.

In 2018, the Department of Defense initiated a study on suicide within its population, known as the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) study. 

This study involves a sample of 1 million veterans, active-duty service members, and Guard/Reserve members who have been deployed at least once since 2001. 

The study's primary objective is to gain insight into the factors that contribute to suicide to enhance prevention efforts. 

Additionally, this research aims to identify individuals at risk for suicide and improve treatment options for those with mental health conditions such as depression or PTSD. 

The findings from this study will inform the development of more effective suicide prevention strategies within the DOD.

The DOD is also studying possible genetic markers that could indicate a person's risk for suicide.

The Defense Department is researching to investigate potential genetic markers that may indicate an individual's susceptibility to suicide. 

This study aims to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying causes of suicide, which may lead to improved methods of identifying those at risk and providing targeted treatment for individuals with suicidal thoughts or mental health conditions such as depression and PTSD. 

The research is currently in its preliminary stages, and the department focuses on identifying specific genes that may be associated with an increased risk for depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol dependence, and substance abuse.

This research aims to develop new methods for early identification and intervention for individuals at risk for suicide.

Because many people in the military also served in combat zones, it's difficult to separate what effects deployments have on suicide risk from other factors.

It is challenging to determine the specific impact of deployments on suicide risk due to the presence of other factors. 

Deployments may be related to an increased risk of suicide as they can expose individuals to traumatic events, which can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is known to be associated with higher rates of suicidal behavior. 

However, other risk factors for suicide should also be considered, such as mental health conditions, such as depression and substance use disorders, and accessibility to lethal means, such as firearms.

VA researchers contend that about one-third of suicides among veterans is due to at least one service-connected condition; the most common is a post-traumatic stress disorder.

It has been suggested through research that veterans with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other service-connected conditions may have an increased risk of suicide. 

Studies have found that PTSD, which can be caused by a range of traumatic events such as combat or sexual assault, is one of the most common conditions among veterans who have died by suicide. 

However, it is also important to note that not all veterans with PTSD receive a diagnosis, and there are various other risk factors for suicide beyond PTSD and other service-connected conditions.

In addition, research has shown that veterans who have been hospitalized for a mental health condition are more likely to be suicidal than those who haven't had these experiences.

Substance abuse, relationship problems, and financial issues are common causes for people to take their own lives after leaving the military.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2017, there were 2.6 million veterans in the United States. 

Studies have shown that substance abuse, relationship problems, and financial issues are common factors associated with suicide among veterans. 

The VA estimates that 24% of veterans who utilized their health care services in 2016 had been diagnosed with mental health disorders such as depression or PTSD and that 1.2 million veterans had a substance use disorder. 

Additionally, it was estimated that 22% of veterans who used healthcare services in 2016 had been diagnosed with mental health disorders such as depression or PTSD.

The VA has developed a suicide prevention hotline that connects callers with trained responders who can provide resources or emergency response.

The VA has developed a suicide prevention hotline that connects callers with trained responders who can provide resources or an emergency response when needed. 

The number is 1-800-273-8255. 

If you are not sure whether someone is at risk for suicide, and they don't seem to be in immediate danger of hurting themselves or others, you may want to let them know about this resource and encourage them to call it if they need help.

Other suicide hotlines include: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-888-628-9454 

Suicide prevention is not easy, but we can improve as we learn more about it.

Preventing suicide is complex, but we can improve our efforts by gaining more knowledge on the topic. The issue is not limited to the military and veterans; it affects society as a whole. By understanding suicide and its triggers, we can assist those who may be at risk or have been impacted by suicide. 

In conclusion, preventing suicide is a complex issue that affects not only the military and veterans but society as a whole. However, by utilizing resources such as the VA's hotline and researching genetic markers for risk, we can work to strengthen suicide prevention efforts. Though the problem cannot be fully solved overnight, we can still take action now to help those at risk and ultimately save lives.

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