VA’s latest data from 2019 shows a decrease in suicide among Veterans from the year prior. The decrease, reflecting the lowest number of Veteran suicides since 2007, provides hope and motivation for continued prevention efforts. This message is part of the new 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which includes findings from our most recent analysis of Veteran suicide data from 2001-2019. The report contains the most comprehensive set of data about Veteran suicide mortality to date.
VA holds fast to the anchors of hope in this report, but notes that there is more work to do to address Veteran suicide.
Key report findings include:
- In 2019, there were 6,261 Veteran suicide deaths, 399 fewer than in 2018.
- In 2019, the Veteran suicide rate was 31.6 per 100,000, substantially higher than the rate among non-Veteran US adults (16.8 per 100,000).
- Adjusting for age- and sex-differences, the rate among Veterans in 2019 was 52.3% higher than for non-Veteran US adults. The rate difference between Veterans and the non-Veteran U.S. population was highest in 2017 at 66.3%.
- From 2018 to 2019, there was a 7.2% overall decrease in the age- and sex-adjusted Veteran suicide mortality rate in 2019, while among non-Veteran US adults, the adjusted suicide mortality rate fell by 1.8%.
- The age-adjusted suicide rate for male Veterans decreased 3.8% in 2019 from 2018 while the age-adjusted suicide rate for female Veterans decreased 14.9% in 2019 from 2018.
- Firearms were more often involved in Veteran suicides in 2019 than in 2018 (among Veteran men who died from suicide: 69.6% in 2018, 70.2% in 2019; among Veteran women who died from suicide: 41.1% in 2018, 49.8% in 2019).
Though having this data is useful to Veteran advocates and those who work in public policy and public health, there is still a lot to do. Rates remain high and efforts are still needed to ensure comprehensive solutions – everyone has a role to play in saving lives.
VA’s first responsibility is to the people who served, and to be concerned about this tragic outcome while also trying to understand it.
Second, suicide is preventable. Because Veterans served our country, VA believes everyone has an obligation to support them and prioritize suicide prevention efforts.
Suicide prevention remains a top priority for VA and the top clinical priority for VHA, with the most significant amount of resources ever appropriated and apportioned to VA suicide prevention. VA continues to implement a 10-year strategy – as outlined in the 2018 National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide – to end Veteran suicide through a public health approach that combines both community-based and clinically-based strategies.
This latest data shows reasons to be encouraged, but VA remains focused on the mission as there is more work to be done.
For additional Veteran suicide mortality data, see the report’s accompanying state data sheets.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Reporters covering this issue can download VA’s Safe Messaging Best Practices fact sheet or visit www.ReportingOnSuicide.org for important guidance on how to communicate about suicide.