What We Learned About Military Suicide Rates

If you or someone you know might be considering suicide, please call or text 9-8-8.

This week Voice of San Diego published a powerful story about the to alarming young men in the military are dying by suicide. Our analysis of local death certificates found that active men aged 17-25 are almost twice as likely to die in suicide than their civilian comrades.

While the government has already recognized that young military members have “greater risk of suicide,” reports do not provide age- and gender-specific breakdowns. Instead, they emphasize that age and gender-adjusted suicide rates in the military are comparable to the general population.

And despite hundreds of millions of dollars in research and prevention programs aimed directly at the military, the problem has not improved.

Reporter Will Huntsberry spoke with our editors Andrew Keatts and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña about the last podcast share more information about its results. Here is an excerpt from this conversation.

Will Huntsberry: Their main conclusion is that young men were almost twice as likely to die by suicide than their civilian comrades. The suicide rate among 17-25 year-olds is 45.6 per hundred thousand, which is a lot more than it is for civilians at about 25 per hundred thousand.

It is especially shocking because for decades and decades, the suicide rate for active military members has been much lower than the civilian population. Military leaders told us we do a screening for the people we lead in the military, they are more physically fit, they are more mentally fit. And something has happened where this is no longer the case.

Andre Keatts: How and when did that change?

WH: It began to change in the early 2000s when we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The operational tempo of the military is something many people will talk to you about, whether you are deployed or not. Everyone is doing more exercise, doing more things – everything is more intense. The past seven years are nothing like 2003 to 2012, but, nevertheless, this phenomenon continues. The suicide rate among the general population is growing but now it is also going inside these military gates and they have spent a lot of money trying to understand it and repair it. And that money being thrown into the problem doesn’t work.

AK: What was the military response if they recognized this trend?

WH: They kind of recognize it. They do a couple of annual suicide reports, but what they tend to do is a suicide comparison to adjust the age and gender of the entire military against the entire U.S. population.

AK: So they don’t break it, as you did with 17-25-year-old men?

WH: That’s what we did that was new. Break it down and try to look over the sets where there is actually a big difference. That’s what we could do, that these reports don’t do.

However, they spent a lot of money. Many people will talk to you about resistance. They want to train their troops to resist when it comes to emotional issues, whether it’s stress or anger management, family communication or financial planning. I spoke with an expert who has studied some of these programs and many of these programs have been found to be ineffective, but that is still one of the main ways that the military is actively going after it.

Think of the military culture as a mighty culture. This must be part of what you think about when you think about this. You go to startup camps, especially in these infantry services, like in the Navy or in the Army, they’re telling you to push through your pain. That is one of the greatest lessons, if not the greatest lesson possible.

You learn to push on your pain so you can help your brothers and sisters and help your country. Then when you’re asking people to tell you about the mental health issues that they’re experiencing, or a crisis that they’re experiencing, what kind of shame you might feel, or the sense of failure you might feel associated with and that. will be much more amplified than that here, where there is already a stigma for mental health issues. So I think that is the problem. These services do not reach the people they need, and the way they need them, due to the greater culture of this sacrificial warrior in the military.

I talked to a former sailor who had a lot of mental health issues and who spoke like you were supposed to. He had long set aside to see a counselor but then told all his fellow sailors he felt he had let them down when he left each week to get the treatment he needed.

Click here to listen to the full conversation.

Have a story or experience you’d like to share? Contact the Will Huntsberry reporter will@vosd.org.

What are we working on

  • It may come as no surprise that San Diego’s housing production is not so hot. Andrew Keatts took a look at the numbers and found the town needs to almost triple its housing production speed to achieve its housing goal was imposed by 2029.
  • San Diego businesses that want to make outdoor dining space built during the permanent COVID-19 pandemic need to apply for a permit before Wednesday last week. Few businesses did, but most food structures are still standing. MacKenzie Elmer checked in on why this is and how reinforcement might look like.

On suicide rates among active young men

“When you’ve lost two good friends to suicide, it doesn’t even make a dent with these items anymore. When you have Master Chief Petty Officer in the Navy tell people to go pay for their own mental health care, and for them ‘ lower your standards’, you can’t be surprised when people finally reach the end they can deal with. ” – Navydevildoc

About San Diego housing production

“The real problem is that the housing market rate does not reach much, if not majority, of our population. Building ADUs, allowing two duplexes on many single families or other gimmicks will not solve the fundamental problem, which is affordable. The private sector simply does not want to build affordable housing. ” – Paul Webb

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