Similar Suicide Programs Needed for Former Service Members

A new Pentagon report shows that suicides among active-duty troops declined by 15 percent last year, offering hope that the military’s suicide-prevention programs may be working.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America says troops can struggle more as they transition into the civilian world and away from the military’s suicide-prevention programs. The group is asking for a similar focus on prevention to lower the rates among former service members.

The VA has taken steps in recent years to address the suicide epidemic among veterans, including setting up a toll-free crisis hotline, placing suicide-prevention specialists in all of the agency’s 151 medical centers and integrating mental health services with primary care. The suicide rate among veterans who use the VA health system has not risen like it has for veterans overall, according to the agency’s numbers. VA officials take that as a sign that the department’s suicide-prevention programs are making an impact.

The Pentagon report also showed that suicides among reservists and National Guard troops actually increased by 8 percent last year. Overall, 289 active-duty troops committed suicide last year, compared with 343 in 2012. Among reservists and National Guard personnel, the number rose from 140 to 152 over the same period.

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