44 percent of service members have experienced suicidal ideation since joining

Elizabeth Howe
March 09, 2020 - 2:33 pm
Service Member



Among today's Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans, 44 percent have experienced suicidal ideation since joining the ranks — an amount that has continuously increased every year since 2014 for a total increase of 13 percent. 

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released those figures and others as part of their annual survey that provides updated information about suicide and mental health conditions among veterans of the Global War on Terror. 

"It was surprising," IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler said. "But also very telling about how little we as a country have done to get our hands around this issue."

Of the 1,700 veterans who participated in the survey, 62 percent personally know a veteran who died by suicide. This is a 22 percent increase since 2014.

Among the increases in percentages such as these, however, were what Butler referred to as "silver linings." For example, 96 percent of veterans are aware of the Veteran Crisis Line, and 61 percent of those who have contacted the VCL reported having excellent or good experiences. 

"We're talking about it," Butler said. "There's a real emphasis on making progress here. People are beginning to be more open and accepting of the fact this is not their fault. Depression, mental health, suicidal ideation — these are not reflective of any personal shortcomings." 

Last year, IAVA conducted over 300 Capitol Hill meetings to speak with VA leadership about issues impacting this demographic of veterans — including advocating for the passage of the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. 

"This legislation will establish innovative new suicide prevention initiatives, improve access to mental health care, and hold the VA accountable to meeting the needs of our veterans," Butler said. "Let’s ensure veterans get the healthcare and resources they rightly deserve. This past year was incredible but there is still much to be accomplished."

If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, there are helpful, qualified VA responders standing by to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. VA Crisis Line call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.