Special Populations at Risk: Veterans

In 2012, more active-duty and non-active-duty soldiers died by suicide than in Afghanistan combat.

The Facts

  • Various research has shown that for soldiers each year:

    • On average, every day there are:

      • 22 veteran suicides, a rate of

      • 1 every 65 minutes.

    • Over 65% are over the age of 50.

      • Next highest age group at risk is 25 years and younger.

  • Primary risk factors for veteran suicide include:

    • Post-trumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - caused by actual or threatened serious injury or death.  Causes intense fear, helplessness, or horror.  Symptoms last more than one month and include re-experiencing the events through intrusive thoughts and/or nightmares; avoidance of people, situations, and/or noises; increased arousal such as poor sleep, irritability, hyper-vigilance, and/or easily startled.

    • Trumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - significant injury to brain from external mechanical force.  Symptoms can include problems with balance, change in smell or taste, headaches/dizziness/ringing in ears, disturbances of sleep, irritability, and/or problems with memory.

    • Military Sexual Trauma (MST) - the Pentagon estimates yearly sexual assaults (including rape) to occur to 13,900 military men (rate of 38 per day), and to 12,100 military women (rate of 33 per day).

Additional Risk Factors

  • Mental illness including PTSD, depression, bipolar, and substance abuse.

  • Stressful environment (e.g. problems at school, experiencing loss, etc.)

  • Access to lethal weapons (e.g. guns in home).

  • Preoccupation with death (including subtle or direct comments about suicide).

  • Past suicide attempts.

Warning Signs

  • Relationship problems

  • Misconduct

  • Financial problems

  • Job loss

  • Homelessness

  • Rage and/or agitation

  • Sleep problems

  • Loss of friend/buddy and/or other unit members

  • Additional warnings signs of suicide by Veterans are the same as for adults.  Learn more by clicking here.  However, keep in mind the Veteran individual's perspective and specific situation(s) must be taken into account.

What to Do

  • Steps you would take for Veterans are the same as you would for other youth and adults.  Learn more by clicking here.  However, keep in mind the Veteran individual's perspective and specific situation(s) must be taken into account.