Ministry of Defense Suicide Report 2020



The following is the Department of Defense (DoD) Annual Suicide Report (ASR) for 2020.

From the report


The Department of Defense (DoD) is committed to suicide prevention and reducing the stigma for seeking help within our military community, recognizing and valuing the diversity and talent that each member contributes to our mission. We owe it to our military and our families who defend our nation.

In October 2018, the ministry established the requirement for an annual DoD Suicide Report (ASR) to serve as the official source of annual suicide numbers and rates for the DoD and a means of increasing transparency. and accountability for the DoD’s suicide prevention efforts. .

This RSA provides an update on the Ministry’s efforts to combat suicide, presenting recent data on the suicide of Service members and, where possible, their families; trends over time; and on-going suicide prevention initiatives, including recent program evaluation, data sharing, collaborative research efforts, and programs to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health or suicidal thoughts. This report also meets the requirements of section 741 of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of fiscal year (FY) 2020 (Public Law 116-92) as amended in section 742 of the NDAA for fiscal year 2021 (Public Law 116-283), as detailed in Appendix A.

Actions taken by the ministry since CY 2019 ASR

Since the release of the ASR last year, the Department has collectively made progress in developing and implementing programs targeting our population of greatest concern identified in the ASR CY 2019 findings – youth. and enlisted servicemen – as well as support from our military families (MoD, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, 2020a). The Department has also taken proactive steps to mitigate the impact on member well-being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some examples of actions taken:

Support young people and enlisted soldiers:

  • Piloting and evaluating a Simple Things Save Lives training video on how to recognize and respond to warning signs of suicide on social media. The DoD released the video after a successful evaluation pilot, which showed service members found the video helpful (85%), learned to recognize warning signs online (80%) and how to respond. (84%), including specific resources to share with others (84%).
  • Piloting and evaluating a Resources Exist, Asking Can Help (REACH) training designed to overcome perceived barriers to seeking help (p. The evaluation found that REACH reduced perceived barriers to service members and increased their comfort in seeking help and knowing the available resources.
  • Released Safe Messaging Guide to Suicide Prevention by Leaders to Address Misconceptions About Suicide and Increase Safe and Effective Communication About Suicide Across DoD.
  • Working with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other agencies to implement a national public health communication campaign to increase awareness of resources and help seeking, and to prepare for the implementation of the “988” crisis line.
  • Completed the first-ever DoD survey examining the attitudes and behaviors of Service members regarding gun storage and their beliefs about guns and suicide risk. Use the results to develop evidence-based safety communication tools.
  • Advance the Ministry’s public health approach in policies to address risk and protective factors shared among behaviors that undermine preparedness, such as suicide.

Supporting Military Families:

  • Creation of a working group to develop a suite of family safety communication tools (e.g., Means Safety Guide for Service Members and Family Members, public service announcement [PSA] video), as well as a media safety campaign reinforcing the importance of the safe storage of firearms and drugs. This suite is slated for approval in CY 2021.
  • Developed resources exist, the Ask for Help – Spouse (REACH-S) training to overcome spousal barriers to care and increase help seeking.
  • Has trained middle and high school students in DoD schools through Signs of Suicide (SOS) training on suicide risk factors and help-seeking skills. Staff trained to deliver in-person training for schools operating on regular schedules, and tailored training for virtual learning environments, with a curriculum 100% accessible to middle and high schools.

Better measure the effectiveness of the program:

  • Collecting service member tracking data, in addition to previous baseline data, aligned with the DoD-wide Suicide Prevention Program Evaluation Framework. Several years of data are needed to reliably track changes over time and assess the effectiveness of programs.
  • Development of a new evaluation framework for the DoD-wide suicide prevention program, specific to the military spouses population.

Address the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic:

The 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic has had a tremendous impact on our nation, influencing the health, well-being, social isolation, economic strains and / or the risk of suicide for many people. . The Department responded proactively through a variety of initiatives and virtual support efforts to ensure the continued delivery of services and resources to the military community. Across the Department, examples of actions taken are as follows, with more detail in the report:

  • Participation in the Federal Coronavirus Mental Health Working Group under Executive Order 13594, Saving Lives Through Increased Support for Mental and Behavioral Health Needs.
  • Launch of personalized coronavirus resources on Military OneSource, DoD websites, department / unit social media channels, and virtual leadership engagements. Training and virtual resources on suicide prevention offered and increased communication on available resources (p.
  • Leverage “Connect to Protect” DoD’s CY 2020 Suicide Prevention Month campaign throughout the year to focus on promoting connectivity and suicide prevention.
  • Implementation of studies to understand the impact of the pandemic and inform further DoD actions.

Download the document here.


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