New VA data shows Veteran suicide rate on the rise

16 November 2023- Today the Department of Veterans Affairs released the National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, the largest national analysis of Veteran suicides through 2021 (the latest year for which we have data). The report shows that 6,392 Veterans died by suicide in 2021, which is 114 more than in 2020. The number of non-Veteran suicides also increased to 40,020 deaths in 2021, which is 2,000 more than in 2020.

2021 was the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to greater financial strain, housing instability, anxiety and depression levels, and barriers to health care – all of which are known to be associated with increased risk of suicide for Veterans and non-Veterans alike. There was also an increase in firearm availability in 2021, which is proven to increase both the risk of suicide and the risk of dying during a suicide attempt.

Ending Veteran suicide is VA’s top clinical priority and a key part of President Biden’s Unity Agenda. Since 2021, VA has worked aggressively to expand support for Veterans in crisis, including offering no-cost health care to Veterans in suicidal crisis at VA or non-VA facilitieslaunching the 988 (then press 1) to help Veterans connect more quickly with caring, qualified responders through the Veterans Crisis Line; partnering with community-based suicide prevention organizations to provide Veterans with on-the-ground support; expanding firearm suicide prevention efforts; and encouraging Veterans to reach out for help through a national Veteran suicide prevention awareness campaign. These steps have led to more than 33,000 Veterans getting free emergency health care, a 12.1% increase in use of the Veterans Crisis Line, more than 3.5 million visits to VA’s support website, and more.

There is nothing more important to VA than preventing Veteran suicide —nothing,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough. “One Veteran suicide will always be too many, and we at VA will use every tool to our disposal to prevent these tragedies and save Veterans’ lives.”

“We will do everything in our power to learn from this report and use its findings to help us save lives,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Shereef Elnahal, M.D. “It will take all of us — working together — to end Veteran suicide, and we will not rest until that goal becomes a reality.”

Before 2021, Veteran suicide had decreased two years in a row—from 6,718 Veteran suicides in 2018 to 6,278 in 2020. Learn more information about VA’s comprehensive, nationwide efforts to prevent Veteran suicide.

This report is based on verified data from the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Defense, and it meets the quality standards of a peer-reviewed publication. In the interest of full transparency, VA releases yearly reports detailing how we come to the conclusions in the Annual Suicide Prevention Report.

For more detailed information about Veteran suicide in 2021, view the full report. For additional Veteran suicide mortality data, see the report’s accompanying state data sheets