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Suicide awareness remains vital for military community as numbers rise

During 2020, the military saw an increase in the number of people in reserve components dying by suicide along with an increase in active-duty suicides for the fourth year in a row.

Military leaders think COVID is playing a factor in military suicides. “COVID adds stress,” said Gen. C.Q. Brown, the Air Force chief, last year. “From a suicide perspective, we are on a path to be as bad as last year. And that’s not just an Air Force problem, this is a national problem because COVID adds some additional stressors – a fear of the unknown for certain folks.”

According to the Defense Department’s quarterly suicide report released recently, 194 reservists took their lives in 2020, an increase of about 40 from 2019. The numbers were evenly spread throughout the year, with about 45 suicides each quarter, with an uptick to 57 in the last three months of the year.

A total of 377 active-duty service members died by suicide in 2020. That number is up from 348 last year. Active-duty suicides have been steadily increasing since 2016 when there were 280. In 2015, the military saw a slight dip to 266 from 276 in 2014. National Guard suicides also increased in 2020 from 90 to 118.

The DoD is still not finished with its statistical calculations for 2020. While the number of suicides is up, the rate has yet to be calculated and the year-long numbers will be documented in a report traditionally released in October for the previous year. The numbers may change as additional deaths can be declared suicides.

Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA) has taken measures to affect a change in these tragic numbers, recognizing the need for awareness and prevention. Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, the JBSA’s Suicide Prevention Program has not stopped its life-saving efforts. “The Army Substance Abuse Program, or ASAP, is well-known for the variety of outreach training programs we provide, but in the wake of the pandemic, we have been faced with the obstacle of restructuring our business model to accommodate virtual outreach,” said Hannah Jeanise, Suicide Prevention Program manager. The team has developed a series of online courses for the JBSA community available here. To learn more about ASAP Suicide Prevention training, click here.

Additional resources are available to the military community from many organizations throughout the region to include the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors. Links to supporting agencies can be found online through the Texas Suicide Prevention Collaborative.

The Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, by pressing 1. These crisis lines connect veterans and service members in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. This is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else to speak with a certified listener.

Your San Antonio Chamber of Commerce continues to follow the needs of our military community closely, especially in light of the growing concern surrounding mental health and wellness, as well as suicide prevention. If you have questions about the Chamber’s Military Affairs Council mission and priorities or would like to become involved, please email Lori Stinson, Vice President for Military Affairs and Leadership Development, at lstinson@sachamber.org.

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