Oct. 26, 2023
Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) released the DoD Annual Report on Suicide in the Military: Calendar Year (CY) 2022, providing annual suicide data of Service members and their dependents, and outlining current and ongoing suicide prevention efforts across the DoD.
As part of Secretary Austin’s wide-reaching efforts to prevent suicide, including the establishment of the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC) in 2022, he recently approved a campaign plan in September 2023 with five lines of effort and multiple enabling tasks to strengthen the Department’s suicide prevention strategy. This includes over 100 actions directed by the Secretary to help prevent suicide among our Armed Forces.
The previous announcement on the Department’s ongoing way-forward to prevent suicide is accessible at this link, and the Secretary of Defense’s memo, “New DoD Actions to Prevent Suicide in the Military,” can be found at this link.
Every death by suicide is a tragedy. The Department will continue to build on these efforts to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to the wellness, health, and morale of our Total Force, and honor the memory of those lost to suicide.
About the data and findings in the Annual Report on Suicide in the Military:
The Department’s public health experts assess suicide rates, which is the number of suicide deaths per 100,000 people per year, to better understand changes or trends. Suicide rates fluctuate from year to year, and as a result the Department considers overall trends and seeks a sustained reduction in rates over multiple years. For example:
Active Component suicide rates have gradually increased since 2011. While the 2022 Active Component rate is slightly higher (3%) than 2021, both years remain lower than 2020.
For the Reserve and Guard, there is no increasing or decreasing trend across 2011-2022. Although there were 12% and 18% rate decreases in the Reserve and National Guard (respectively) from the previous year, like the Active Component these changes are not statistically significant. (In this context, ‘not statistically significant’ means that experts who analyze the data cannot be certain this is a true change and, instead, changes from one year to the next could be due to normal variations in data.)
For our military family members, the rate decreased by 16% in 2021 (most recent year available) versus 2020; yet this percentage change also is not statistically significant.
Therefore – and to ensure long-term change – we must continue to seek sustained reductions over many years.
In CY 2022, 492 Service members died by suicide, which is fewer than the previous year (524); it is important to note that while the total count of suicide deaths went down, it is the overall rate – which is the focus of the ASRM report – of suicide deaths per 100,000 that went up by 3%.
Military suicide rates were similar to the U.S. population in most years between 2011-2021 after accounting for age and sex differences.
Most Service members who died by suicide were young, enlisted men.
In CY21, 168 family members died by suicide, including 114 spouses and 54 dependents. While every death by suicide is a tragedy, we are cautiously encouraged at this reduction from the previous year (CY20) data that indicated 202 dependent deaths by suicide.
Firearms were the primary method of suicide death for Service members and family members.
Service members and veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Service member or veteran in crisis, can call the Veterans/Military Crisis Line for confidential support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 988 and Press 1, text 838225 or chat online at MilitaryCrisisLine.net.
Any reference to non-federal entities, and the appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute an endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of any organization, the linked websites, or the information, products, or services contained therein.
Read: The Annual Report on Suicide in the Military – https://www.dspo.mil/