The number of U.S. military service members and veterans who have killed themselves since Sept. 11, 2001, is more than four times the number of service members who have been killed in war operations, according to a report released June 21.
Data compiled by the Costs of War Project, founded by researchers at Brown and Boston universities, showed that an estimated 30,177 Active-duty personnel and veterans of the Global War on Terrorism have taken their own lives, compared to 7,057 deaths in combat.
The massive discrepancy “marks a failure by the military and U.S. society to manage the mental health cost of our current conflicts,” writes researcher Thomas Howard Suitt of Boston University.
The increases in both veteran and Active-duty suicides are outpacing those among the general population, Suitt writes. In particular, data from 2018 showed the adjusted rate of suicides among Active-duty members going above that rate for civilians despite historically being “comparable to U.S. population rates after accounting for age and sex.”
“As we come closer to the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we must reflect on the mental health cost of the Global War on Terror,” Suitt writes. “The human cost for our veterans and service members far outweighs even the most crippling financial costs we have endured to send them to war.”
The rate of suicide in the military, among Active-duty members, National Guard and Reserve personnel, and veterans, has become an increasingly urgent concern among Department of Defense leaders.
In 2019, the Air Force ordered a one-day stand down to address the rise of suicides among Airmen—109 killed themselves that year, including 82 on Active duty. Both of those numbers were the highest the service had seen since at least 2014. The Pentagon’s annual report for 2020 has not been completed, but the quarterly reports indicated another 109 suicides for the year, 81 among active-duty Airmen.
Through early 2021, though, those numbers have come down, Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, told the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee May 12. The DOD has not released any quarterly reports for 2021.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.