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Military Health System

Suicide Risk

Military service members’ lives are generally very different from the lives of civilians. Service members are subject to frequent relocations, overseas deployments, and stressful experiences related to combat and significant time away from their families. The Department of Defense (DOD) and its partners continue to examine how various military-specific stressors could contribute to suicide-related behaviors and mortality in the force.

The 2019 Department of Defense Suicide Event Report provides some insights about active component service members who died by suicide:

  • 59.9 percent used a firearm as the method of injury
  • 43.6 percent had a known behavioral health diagnosis
  • 42.6 percent had known relationship problems in the 90 days before the event, 28.5 percent had known legal/administrative problems, and 13.8 percent had known work-related problems
  • 52.4 percent used some form of military health care or social services in the 90 days prior to death

Although suicide is a serious public health problem, it is preventable. All providers in the Military Health System should be attuned to warning signs in their patients and refer them to mental health specialists for screening, treatment, and firearm and means safety precautions whenever suicide risk may be an issue. Providers should also stay apprised of the latest policy guidance on suicide risk.

Suicide Prevention Crisis Services

Last Updated: July 22, 2022
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