Dec. 3, 2019 - Supporting Veteran and Service member suicide prevention is one of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s top public policy priorities. Our men and women in uniform face unique challenges and often are at risks unique to their service. Today, Veterans are 1.5x more likely to die by suicide than their non-veteran peers.
AFSP is continually raising awareness of this issue, and calling upon Congress to adequately address Veteran and Service member suicide prevention. The day after Veterans Day, on Tuesday, November 12, the AFSP Public Policy Office held a Capitol Hill briefing on Suicide Prevention for Veterans and Active Duty Service members.
Facilitated in coordination with the House Military Mental Health Task Force, the Congressional Briefing featured a panel of diverse speakers from Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) and National Guard representatives.
Over twenty Veterans die by suicide a day, due to complex and interweaving risks that are both unique to their service and generally seen across the population. But every panelist emphasized a message that we at AFSP recognize – the power and the perspective of hope. Because suicide is preventable.
Suicide for Veterans and Service members isn’t an inevitability. Veteran and military communities and organizations are working to reduce the shame often felt in connection with suicide, increase knowledge of suicide risk factors, and change the attitudes around treatment. National and local efforts are underway to encourage holistic wellness, reduce access to lethal means, and increase access to mental health services for all Veterans and Service members.
Despite suicide being a leading cause of death for Veterans and Service members, research and modern insights are enabling new approaches to this complex issue. One Veteran Service Officer at the briefing described retreats with groups of Veterans that serve to instill a sense of community and encourage support among Service members. Unique therapy solutions being promoted through legislation focused on specific demographics – particularly younger Veterans, female Veterans, and National Guard – are finally beginning to receive long due attention when it comes to mental health support.
Congress has committed considerable time and effort to mitigate a myriad of issues that too many Veterans and Service members must face – housing, educational attainment, job training, etc. Thanks to AFSP’s partnership with Veterans organizations, our collaboration with Members of Congress, and our network of vocal Field Advocates, we have helped raise the issue of suicide prevention as a national priority. We will continue, through our network of volunteer Field Advocates, to press for legislation that will provide lifesaving mental health support for our veterans.