The rate of active-duty military suicides fell by about 15 percent last year compared to 2020, the Department of Defense recently announced. Despite the drop, more than one active-duty service member still died by suicide every day in 2021.
The department’s annual suicide report states that just over 24 in 100,000 active-duty troops took their own lives last year, down from the nearly 29 in 100,000 reported in 2020.
Converting that to a raw tally means a decrease from 582 suicides in 2020 to 519 in 2021.
Behind that decrease is a slight reversal in the trend of suicides rising across all branches of the military since at least 2011, according to the report.
Army suicides hovered near where they were in 2020, but suicides in the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force all decreased. However, the only “statistically significant” decrease was in the Air Force, according to Liz Clark, director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office.
The active-duty suicide rate has generally tracked with that of the broader U.S. population since 2011, rising above it only in 2012 and in the years since 2018, according to a chart in the report.
There is no trend in the suicide rate for reserve forces, which was similar from 2020 to 2021, or for the National Guard, which was also similar year-to-year.
The announcement of the 2021 suicide report included steps the Defense Department is taking to prevent U.S. troops taking their own lives.
One of those is the hiring of 2,000 personnel dedicated to suicide prevention that will be stationed around the world.
Also, a new committee is set to review multiple installations domestically and abroad, and make recommendations to prevent suicides. The committee will deliver its first report in February, according to the announcement.
However, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, “While we have made progress in these areas, we must continue to do more.”
“We have the most technologically advanced military in the world, but our service members are our most important resource as a fighting force,” Austin said. “Mental health wellness and suicide prevention remain critical aspects to our success and the department’s enduring commitment to take care of our people.”