Following two straight years of decline in the number of veterans who died by suicide, self-inflicted deaths among veterans rose by 1.8% in 2021, with 6,392 veterans dying in the first full year of the pandemic, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs' annual suicide prevention report, released Thursday.
The rise coincided with an increase in suicides across the U.S.. In 2021, suicides were up by 4% for a total of 40,020 persons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But when comparing similar demographics by age and gender, the rate of veteran of veterans suicide increased by 11.6%, more than twice the increase of 4.5% among non-veteran U.S. adults.
The increase is disheartening for VA officials following two years of declines, given that the department has implemented numerous programs and services over the past several years to prevent suicide and broaden access to mental health care.
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“There is nothing more important to VA than preventing veteran suicide — nothing,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement Thursday. “One veteran suicide will always be one too many, and we at VA will use every tool at our disposal to prevent these tragedies and save veterans' lives.”
During a media roundtable Wednesday ahead of the report's release, VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef…