Story at a glance

  • Military service members and veterans often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues related to their service.
  • A new study found that the suicide rate has continued climbing since the 9/11 attacks, which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The military does not have an exact number, and the study estimates it could be higher.

More than 30,000 active duty personnel and veterans of the post-9/11 wars have died by suicide, nearly three times as many as service members killed in post-9/11 war operations, according to a new study.

"An estimated 30,177 active duty service members and war veterans of the post 9/11 wars have died by suicide, significantly more than the 7,057 killed in ‘Global War on Terror’ military operations. This marks a failure by the military and U.S. society to manage the mental health cost of our current conflicts," said Thomas Howard Suitt, who authored the paper.  

The study also estimates that the actual number of post-9/11 veteran suicides is higher than recorded, noting that the Veterans Affairs office does not differentiate suicides by time of service and has not reported an exact number. 


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And the situation is only getting worse. While hostile combat deaths have gone down "considerably" since 2007, the study found that suicide rates continue to climb. Since 2012, when suicide rates peaked, the last three years have been the worst consecutive years of active service member suicide. Suitt, a Boston University graduate, said the study didn’t point to any one single cause for the increase, noting the differing experiences among various branches of the military. 

"Attempting to identify the primary cause of increasing suicide rates would require piecing together a puzzle we can often only identify in hindsight with limited knowledge of the individual circumstances under which people chose to take their own lives. Still, it is worthwhile to lay out the patterns of factors affecting military personnel and veterans in our modern wars, as well as what factors may be unique to the post-9/11 era," he said. 


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Published on Jun 22, 2021