519 American troops committed suicide in 2021, according to the Annual Report on Suicide in the U.S. Military, published by the Department of Defense.
The 519 deaths last year involved active-duty, reserve, and National Guard members with young, enlisted male Service members found to be at greatest risk.
Although the 2021 numbers are lower than 582 cases reported in 2020, the suicide rate has gradually increased since 2011.
The report found that 202 dependents of U.S. service members died by suicide, including 133 spouses and 69 other dependents. In both categories, the victims resorted to firearms to take their lives.
Alongside the data, the report outlines the Department’s efforts in CY2021 to advance a comprehensive and integrated primary prevention approach to suicide prevention with a focus on 3 key areas – fostering a supportive environment and quality of life, addressing stigma as a barrier to help-seeking, and promoting a culture of lethal means safety.
In a statement on the report, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin vowed that he Department will not stop working to address the root causes of this issue. “We also continue efforts to improve the quality of life for Service members and their families, address stigma as a barrier to seeking help, and expand our safety efforts for our Service members and their families,” he added.
Earlier this year, Austin announced the establishment of the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC), which is working to help prevent suicide in the military by providing an external perspective on how to better support U.S. Service members. He said he recently spoke with Dr. Gayle Iwamasa, Chair of the SPRIRC, and looks forward to reviewing the committee’s recommendations later this year.
“In 2021, we took concrete steps to support Service members and their families especially by fostering a supportive environment and quality of life, addressing stigma as a barrier to help-seeking, and promoting a culture of lethal means safety. We are continuing to expand those efforts in 2022” said Elizabeth Foster, Executive Director, Office of Force Resiliency.
Service members and veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Service member or veteran in crisis, have been advised to reach the crisis line by dialing 988 or 1-800-273-8255 and selecting option 1 after connecting to reach a staffer. In addition, veterans, troops, or their family members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.
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