Suicide Prevention Resources for Disabled Veterans

Disabled Veterans Resource Center

There are a number of resources available to veterans and individuals seeking help for suicidal ideation or concerns. The Disabled Veterans Resource Center refers veterans to various organizations if they are in need of these services.

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death among U.S. civilians. It is the second leading cause of death among U.S. veterans. Though veterans make up only 8.3% of the adult U.S. population, they account for 14.3% of all U.S. adult suicide deaths. Veteran suicide rates stood at 30.1 per 100,000 population in 2017 (45 per 100,000 population in veterans ages 18-34). Compare this to the 16.8 per 100,000 population U.S. deaths from prescription or illicit opioid overdose.

On average, one Iraq or Afghanistan soldier died in combat every 36 hours. Meanwhile, there was one veteran suicide every 80 minutes. After adjusting for age and gender, the veteran suicide rate is 1.5 times greater than that of civilian adults. In 2016, age- and gender-adjusted suicide rates were 26.1 per 100,000 for veterans and 17.4 per 100,000 for civilian adults. 

A male veteran’s risk of suicide is 19% higher than that of a male adult civilian, while female suicide rates are 1.8 times higher than female civilian suicide rates after adjusting for age. Suicide rates among younger veterans is increasing markedly in recent years. Suicide rates for veterans ages 18-34 increased from 40.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2015 to 45 deaths per 100,000 in 2016. Overall, suicide rates are highest among male veterans ages 18–34 and lowest among male veterans ages 55–74, though the Department of Veterans Affairs reports veterans age 55 and up accounted for 58.1% of suicide deaths in 2016. 

Some of the most common causes of suicide among U.S. civilians are:

  • Mental Illness

    Depression, anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia

  • Exposure to Trauma

    Physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, life-threatening experience, involvement in combat, exposure to death of a loved one, severe injury

  • Substance Abuse

    Alcohol dependence, illicit or prescription drug dependence, withdrawal symptoms

  • Financial burdens

    Unemployment, debt, gambling addiction, bankruptcy

  • Social Isolation

    Loneliness, disconnect, introversion, lack of purpose, retirement

  • Family History

    Genetic history of mental illness, genetic history of suicide

  • Terminal Illness

    Feelings of hopelessness, fear of pain or death

  • Chronic Pain

    Impaired function, pain-associated depression, prescription drug dependence

Just one of these factors alone can contribute to a higher risk of suicide. Veterans often leave service with a combination of the above. Research suggests that mental illness is a factor in at least 90% of U.S. suicides.  According to data from the CDC, an estimated 25% of U.S. adults report having a mental illness, or one in four. It is estimated that around 8.1% of men and 20.4% of women who experience trauma will develop PTSD,  while 16.1% of Americans are diagnosed with clinical depression in their lifetime, and 12.3% with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Among active duty service members, data from the U.S. Department of Defense Health Related Behaviors Survey shows 17.9% of active service members screen positive for at least one of these three disorders (PTSD, clinical depression, GAD), with 9.7% screening positive for at least two.

VA has implemented several plans to help bring down veteran suicide rates, including:

  • Proving mental health care for 90 days post discharge regardless of discharge status
  • Expanding Vet Center or VA Emergency care to OTH service members
  • Hiring additional mental health providers
  • Increasing calling centers and staff in rural areas
  • Analyzing veterans’ health records to identify and contact
    those at highest risk

470.751.9910

3333 Peachtree Road NE
Suite 150
Atlanta, GA 30326