Despite the bipartisan acknowledgement that suicide among military veterans is a national crisis, research indicates that records under-represent the actual impact of veteran suicide in communities across the country.
The finding was revealed by Operation Deep Dive (OpDD), a community-based veteran suicide prevention study led by national nonprofit America’s Warrior Partnership and researchers from the University of Alabama with a grant funded by the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation.
One component of OpDD has researchers comparing state death certificates with Department of Defense (DoD) records in 14 states. Completed analyses within two of these states – Florida and Minnesota – reveal that 153 veterans who died by suicide were unaccounted in Florida records, while 68 veterans who died by suicide were unaccounted in Minnesota records. Comparisons underway in the remaining 12 states indicate these local occurrences may be present in other communities.
“We do not share these findings to point the finger at a state for inconsistencies in record keeping, but to ensure the country is aware of how much we do not know about the unique impact of veteran suicide in different communities,” said Jim Lorraine, President and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership. “Correcting these errors will take a concentrated effort that empowers community organizations to proactively connect with veterans before they encounter a crisis. Congress is on the right path with the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Healthcare Improvement Act, but time is running out. We urge the U.S. House of Representatives to pass this bill before the current session of Congress ends so that communities will be better equipped to prevent veteran suicide.”
Lorraine delivered this petition as testimony in two Congressional hearings held during the week of Sept. 7: the “House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing on Suicide Prevention” and the “Senate Hearing on Veteran’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.” The nation’s renewed call for immediate action coincides with National Suicide Prevention Month, an initiative for mental health advocates and communities to unite in promoting suicide prevention awareness throughout September.
Operation Deep Dive researchers are currently conducting interviews to investigate veteran lives lost to suicide or a non-natural cause of death. Researchers seek individuals who are 18 years of age or older and have lost a relative, loved one, friend, or co-worker who was a veteran to suicide within the last 24 months. Both the interviewee and the veteran must have lived in the same community – which must also be one of the 14 states where OpDD is active – prior to the veteran’s death.
For more information on Operation Deep Dive, including the latest findings and details on how to participate in an interview, visit https://www.americaswarriorpartnership.org/deep-dive.
In addition to OpDD, America’s Warrior Partnership offers a wide array of services to community organizations seeking their local veterans’ assistance. One of them is The Network, a national coordination platform that expands veteran-serving organizations’ reach by connecting them with national resources.
VETERANS CRISIS LINE | A service member or veteran in crisis can call 1.800.273.8255 and press 1 or send a text message to 838255 to connect for help.
VIDEO | Operation Deep Dive
About America’s Warrior Partnership
America’s Warrior Partnership is committed to empowering communities to empower veterans. We fill the gaps between veteran service organizations by helping nonprofits connect with veterans, their families, and caregivers. Our programs bolster nonprofit efficacy, improving their results, and empowering their initiatives. For more information, visit AmericasWarriorPartnership.org