Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its 2012 calendar year DoD Suicide Event Report (DoDSER), which details the number of suicide attempts and deaths for U.S. service members.
“The department takes suicide prevention very seriously and considers any measure that saves a life as one worth taking,” said Lt. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, military deputy to the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “The 2012 DoDSER gives us comprehensive information of suicide events and a greater understanding of the range of conditions associated with this very serious problem for the department.”
The DoDSER includes an assessment of several areas for suicide prevention efforts, including demographic information, behavioral health history, circumstances at the time of the event, and deployment history. This vital information helps target resilience efforts and allows DoD senior leaders to make informed policy decisions to improve suicide prevention efforts.
In calendar year 2012, there were 319 deaths by suicide among active component service members and 203 deaths by suicide among reserve component service members (73 in the reserve and 130 in the National Guard).
Preliminary data for calendar year 2013 indicates that the overall totals and rates declined in most categories from 2012. The preliminary 2013 total deaths by suicide were 261 among active duty service members and 213 deaths in the reserve component.
The department’s top priority is building resilience in service members and their families. As of December 2013, the department has hired approximately 9,425 mental health professionals including, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, counselors, and other licensed mental health providers.
As part of the department’s continuing efforts to increase its understanding of suicide it has standardized practices and processes across the services and the department to provide consistent and comparable information that helps inform suicide prevention efforts.
“Our most valuable resource within the department is our people,” said Jackie Garrick, director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office. “We are committed to taking care of our people and this more comprehensive view will give the department a greater understanding of how to prevent suicides among all our men and women in uniform.”
The military suicide death rate will now be calculated for each component consistent with the methodology used to report the incidence of death in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Previously, each service branch calculated a suicide rate for their service members using different reporting intervals and statistical methodologies. Additionally, service component, rather than duty status, will be used to count suicide number for the total force (active, guard and reserve components). Later this year, the department will begin to issue suicide data results quarterly for all service components.
The 2012 DoDSER findings are available at www.suicideoutreach.org
If you are a service member or family member in crisis or know someone who is, please contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (Press 1), www.militarycrisisline.net, or by phone-text to 838255. The Military Crisis Line provides 24/7 confidential support to all service members and their families.