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Focusing on Preventing Veteran Suicide


Suicide among veterans is a national concern—from 2008 to 2016, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide each year. Address the problem and preventing suicide is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  

In September, the VA released national and state-level findings from its most recent analysis of veteran suicide data, from 2005 to 2016. The analysis is part of VA’s ongoing  Suicide Prevention Program.

 From 2005 to 2016, the veteran suicide rate increased 26 percent (the non-veteran suicide rate increased by 21 percent). The veteran suicide rate did drop slightly from 2015 to 2016.

  • In 2016 the veteran suicide rate was 1.5 times more than the non-veteran rate (after adjusting for age and gender).
  • The 2016 suicide rate for veteran women was 1.8 times greater than the rate for non-veteran women.

 Younger veterans are particularly at-risk. By age group, the rate of suicides is greatest among veterans 18 to 34 years. 

soldier in therapy

In 2016, 69 percent of veteran suicides and 48 percent of non-veteran suicides were from firearm injury.

The VA is working to prevent suicide and is partnering with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, Veterans Service Organizations, and others. One recent effort is using statistical methods and computing power to help predict suicide risks. The Department of Veterans Affairs program, REACH VET (Recovery Engagement and Coordination for Health—Veterans Enhanced Treatment), is a suicide prevention program that analyzes data from veterans’ health records and uses a predictive model to help identify veterans at statistical risk for suicide.

Primary care providers at VA facilities then help connect at-risk veterans with specialized care and support. This may include a review of the treatment plan and consideration of additional steps, such as creating a crisis plan with coping strategies and social and professional supports, increased monitoring, peer support or telehealth.


  • Veterans Crisis Line  or  1-800-273-8255
  • “Be There” public service announcement: Service members and Veterans talking about the small actions by friends and family members that made a big difference to them 
  • Make the Connection: Stories of Veterans who have dealt with mental health issues, have found support (whether through treatment or with the help of a loved one), and are living healthy, productive lives    


Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. Veteran Suicide Data Report, 2005–2016. September 2018.


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