Female Veteran Deaths by Suicide Nearly Matching Male Death Rates
Women are slowly achieving equality with men in our military. Unfortunately, they are also coming close to matching male veterans in their rate of death by suicide according to recent research. Women in the military are killing themselves at a rate of six times higher than women in the general population based on the analysis of eleven years of data by the Veteran’s Administration (VA). Male suicide has been the sole focus of the VA, and, until this recent finding, little had been known about female suicide.
The shocking numbers have left researchers to grapple with the question of why. Does the military draw women who are at a higher risk for suicide? Does the high suicide rate reflect the similarly alarmingly high rates of sexual trauma experienced by women in the military? I would guess it is probably a combination of both, however, my concern lies with being able to prevent these suicides.
Oklahoma has dropped to 17th from 12th in the nation for deaths by suicide. This is due to massive efforts in our state to educate everyone from mental health professionals to doctors to laypeople about this preventable cause of death. We must spread awareness in our military as well to be willing to ask the question, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” If the person has been thinking about it, they will be glad you asked. If they aren’t thinking about it, you won’t give them the idea by asking this question.