2023 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report Intensifies Call for Continued Efforts to Improve Veteran Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
November 21, 2023 – 4 min read
NEW YORK (November 21, 2023) - The Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention released the 2023 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which provides insight into suicide mortality among Veterans and non-Veteran U.S. adults, from 2001 through 2021.
This report underscores the growing need for Veteran-focused suicide prevention efforts. In 2021, 6,392 Veterans died by suicide, 114 more than in 2020. Suicide remains the 13th leading cause of death for Veterans overall, and the second leading cause of death for Veterans under the age of 45. The age-adjusted rate of suicide among women Veterans increased by 24.1% – significantly higher than the rate of increase among male Veterans.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a leading suicide prevention organization, released the following statement regarding the VA’s findings:
At AFSP, we are saddened and disappointed by the increase in suicide deaths and rates among the Veteran population – even one death from suicide is one too many. Our staff and volunteer force across 74 chapters in the United States is dedicated to ending Veteran suicide. The report from the VA strengthens our resolve to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide through advancing scientific research, educating the public about mental health and suicide prevention and advocating for public policies that support suicide prevention strategies tailored for the Veteran community.
To this end, AFSP encourages the swift passage of legislation to advance each of these goals. These include the following:
- The Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach (CVSO) Act (H.R.984/S.106) will authorize the first direct source of federal funding for tribal and county Veteran service officers.
- The CAREERS Act (S.10) will help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hire and retain medical staff, including mental health professionals.
- The Daniel J. Harvey, Jr. and Adam Lambert Improving Servicemember Transition to Reduce Veteran Suicide Act (H.R.3722/S.132) will assist service members in transition away from active-duty military service and support Veterans in their first year of transition into civilian life.
This newly released VA report is an important reminder that suicide is a complex health outcome. We all have a continued role to play in suicide prevention and improving mental health outcomes for service members, Veterans, and their families. It is important to emphasize that while there are increased suicide rates among the Veteran population, that does not mean that every Veteran is at risk. Veterans often have protective factors like resilience in the face of challenges. Another protective factor is a community of peers to support them.
To join AFSP’s effort to prevent Veteran suicide, please sign up to become an AFSP volunteer advocate at afsp.org/actioncenter. Additional ways an individual can make a difference in the fight against Veteran suicide are to join a chapter and volunteer or access immediate support for suicide loss survivors through Healing Conversations. Find resources for Veteran mental health support here.
AFSP strongly supports building a culture where it is easier for Veterans to ask for and receive help, including enhancing and improving access to culturally relevant care for Veterans, service members, and their families; bolstering the ability of VA and community providers to provide timely, evidence-based mental health and suicide prevention services; and promoting secure firearms storage and other forms of lethal means safety.
For more information about these and other bills, please visit our federal bills page at afsp.org/federalbills. To take action to advance these and other priorities, please visit our Public Policy Action Center at afsp.org/actioncenter.
If you are concerned that you or someone you know might be experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, prioritize their mental health. There are things you can do that help. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention suggests these steps:
- Learn the signs of someone who may be at risk for suicide. Often there are changes in behavior, such as mood swings, angry outbursts, or loss of interest in activities they love.
- Reach out to someone who you think may be struggling. Trust your gut if you are concerned. Ask directly if they have thoughts of ending their life – research shows this is helpful and does not put the thought in their mind. You do not need to be an expert to have a conversation. AFSP has developed #RealConvo guides with language to help you start and sustain conversations on mental health.
- Connect those who are struggling with help. Share the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. To be connected to 24/7 confidential crisis support specific to the Veteran Community, press 1 after calling 988. You will be connected to the Veterans Crisis Line.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide, including those who have experienced a loss. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through public education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, with a public policy office in Washington, DC, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico, with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, X (formally Twitter), Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.