A new report from the Pentagon found that 519 US service members died by suicide in 2021, a decrease from the 582 cases in 2020.
The 519 deaths last year involved active-duty, reserve, and National Guard members.
“Every death by suicide is a tragedy that impacts our people, our military units, and our readiness,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a news briefing Thursday. “The secretary remains committed to tackling suicides within the force and improving the quality of life for service members and their families to include addressing stigma as a barrier to health.”
The largest decrease in suicides among service members occurred among active-duty service members, the data showed. In 2021, 328 active-duty service members died by suicide compared to 384 active-duty service members in 2020.
There was less of a decrease among reserve and National Guard service members. Seventy-four reserve members died by suicide in 2021 compared to 77 in 2020.
According to the data, 117 National Guard members died by suicide in 2021 compared to 121 in 2020.
While 2020 saw the suicide rate for active-duty service members increase by 9.1%, the 2021 rate was similar to 2019, the report said.
Still, despite the decrease from 2020 to 2021, the overall suicide rate per 100,000 active-duty service members has slowly increased from 2011 to 2021, the report said.
Among reserve service members, the suicide rate per 100,000 members has largely stayed flat between 2011 and 2021. Among national guard members, the suicide rate per 100,000 members has largely remained flat as well, the report said.
Most service members who died by suicide were young, enlisted men, the report said. The most common method of suicide was firearm, with 70% of suicides among service members using one. Last year, President Joe Biden announced a military and veteran suicide prevention strategy that includes promoting safe firearms storage and outlining best practices for firearm dealers.
The plan includes a new federal focus on improving lethal means safety, which is a voluntary practice to reduce one’s suicide risk by limiting access to objects that can be used to cause self-harm, including medications, firearms or sharp instruments.
They’re our daughters. Our sons. Parents. Spouses. Siblings. Beloved friends and battle buddies,” Biden said at the time.
“Each of these precious lives leaves behind loved ones who feel their absence every single day, like a black hole in the middle of their chests.”