Veteran suicides fell to their lowest level in 12 years in 2019, down more than one death a day from the previous year’s levels, according to new data released by the Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday.
Despite that, the rate of suicides among veterans remains almost double the rest of the American public, accounting for more than 32,000 deaths from 2015 to 2019, the latest data available.
Veterans Affairs officials called the news a notable improvement, but acknowledged the work still ahead.
“Suicide prevention remains a top priority for VA, with the most significant amount of resources ever appropriated and apportioned to VA suicide prevention,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “Suicide is preventable, and everyone has a role to play in saving lives.”
Federal data on suicide rates have lagged two years behind current conditions, and the latest report from VA does not include any records from the pandemic, which mental health experts warned could exacerbate mental health conditions and lead to suicidal thoughts among individuals.
VA officials said that to date they have not observed increases in “documented suicide-related indicators” during the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in March 2020.
The 6,261 veteran suicides in 2019 are 399 fewer than 2018 and equate to about 17 per day. That figure is well below the often-quoted “22 a day” statistic regarding veterans suicide, which was based on an estimate used by VA officials a decade ago.
When factoring in active-duty military, reservists and other associated groups, the total is closer to 20 a day. (continue reading)