Preventing Veteran Suicide is a Responsibility for Us All

Preventing Veteran Suicide is a Responsibility for Us All

September 30, 2015
Written by the NVTAC Blogger

Veteran suicide concerns us all. In 2012 alone, 6,500 former military personnel committed suicide, and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs study released in 2013 (covering suicides from 1999 to 2010), showed that roughly 22 veterans were committing suicide each day, or 1 every 65 minutes. There are alarmingly high rates, and some sources suggest that this rate may even be undercounting suicides. A recent analysis found a suicide rate among veterans of about 30 per populations of 100,000 per year, compared with the civilian rate of 14 per 100,000.[1] To help address this tragic issue, each September, we draw particular attention to the problem of veteran suicide and encourage solutions.

Most NVTAC stakeholders are keenly focused on improving the working lives of our veterans, so it is important to note that research suggests that unemployment is associated with suicide. Not that unemployment is necessary causal, but that it impacts a number of health outcomes, including suicide. Evaluated on an epidemiologic basis, the evidence suggests a strong, positive association between unemployment and many adverse health outcomes. Whether unemployment causes these adverse outcomes is less straightforward, as there are likely many mediating and confounding factors, which may be social, economic, or clinical. However, we certainly can assert that long-term unemployment is unhealthy and that employment has positive health impacts, such as increased self-esteem, improved housing stability, decreases in depression, and positive mental health. A working life is about a healthy life.

Agencies and staff helping veterans enter and maintain their place in the labor market are contributing to the well-being and health of the veterans they serve. However, in communities across the country, more can be done to make available the services and supports homeless veterans require to not only live in permanent housing, but to enjoy participation in our society by receiving a paycheck, going to a workplace where their presence is valued, connecting with new co-workers, and having standing as an employed person.

So does addressing the unemployment of veterans affect suicide rates in our communities? Although more research is needed, we do know that employment contributes to health and well-being. Therefore, for many reasons, more needs to be done to help veterans succeed at work.

[1] Moni Basu, Why suicide rate among veterans may be more than 22 a day, CNN, November 14, 2013; and Jeff Hargarten, Forrest Burnson, Bonnie Campo and Chase Cook, Veteran Suicides Twice as High as Civilian Rates, News21, Aug. 24, 2013.