Story at a glance

  • Last year, military suicides increased 20 percent compared to 2019.
  • 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.
  • Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III addressed the stigma attached to getting help for mental health.

Since suicide rates in the military peaked in 2012, the last three years have been the worst consecutive years of active service member suicide. Now, the defense secretary says it’s way past time to stop stigmatizing mental health. 

"I'm deeply concerned about the suicide rates, not only here but across the force," Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said during a press conference at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. "One loss by suicide is too many. While we're working hard on this problem, we have a lot more to do."


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In 2020, Army officials reportedly said that discussions within the Department of Defense indicated up to a 20 percent spike in military suicides from the year before. 

“We cannot say definitively it is because of COVID,” said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the time. “But there is a direct correlation from when COVID started, the numbers actually went up.”


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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 recent study. 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.

"So, if you're hurting, there are resources available," Austin said. "And I know that our leaders here are committed to making those resources even more accessible and available."

"One of my messages to the men and women that I spoke with today is we need to look out for one another, and I promised I would be looking out after them."


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Published on Jul 27, 2021