Occupation matters – Veterans and First Responders have a higher risk of suicide

Don’t give up hope – Help is out there

Suicide is a national public health issue, with more than 45,000 Americans dying by suicide each year, and rates increasing among people ages 10–75. New data shows a similar increase in deaths by suicide among Veterans.

Tragically, according to the Veteran Affairs Office, we lose nearly 20 veterans each day to suicide. Wyoming alone saw a loss of 37 total Veteran deaths by suicide in 2020. For a look at the Wyoming Veteran Suicide Data Sheet for 2020, click here.

The causes of suicide are complex, with many personal, socio-demographic, medical, and economic factors playing a role. One potential risk factor is occupation and several occupations appear to be at higher risk for suicide, including first responders[2]. First responders, including law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services (EMS) clinicians, and public safety telecommunicators, are crucial to ensuring public safety and health. First responders may be at elevated risk for suicide because of the environments they work in, their culture, and additional stressors that they face at home and work. 

Like Veterans, first responders may be subject to life-altering trauma on a daily basis. Many first responders and Veterans have PTSD because of this. PTSD does not always cause suicide or suicidal ideation but in some cases, it can. The important thing to remember is that PTSD and other mental health issues that lead to suicide can be treated.

Read other stories of hope and recovery here.

Never give up hope! There are several hopeful data points from the 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report:

  • 399 fewer Veterans died from suicide in 2019 than in 2018, reflecting the lowest raw count of Veteran suicides since 2007.
  • From 2005 to 2018, identified Veteran suicides increased on average by 48 deaths each year. A reduction of 399 suicides within one year is unprecedented, dating back to 2001.
  • The single-year decrease in suicide rates for Veterans from 2018 to 2019 (7% adjusted) was larger than any observed for Veterans from 2001 through 2018. Further, the Veteran rate of decrease (7.2%) exceeded four times the non-Veteran population decrease (1.8%) from 2018 to 2019.
  • There was a nearly 13% one-year rate (unadjusted rate) decrease for female Veterans. This represents the greatest rate decrease for Women Veterans in 17 years.
  • COVID-19-related data continues to emerge and clarify, but data thus far do not indicate an increase in Veteran suicide-related behaviors. Additionally, the level of differential mortality by mental health status has not increased since the pandemic began.

How can you help? It really is simple. Help strengthen our community and your loved ones by finding ways to embrace healthy activities and resources in our community. We encourage everyone to take a minute and look at the Sources of Strength website and see what strengths they have in their life.

Ask and listen. Be an active part of your loved ones’ support systems and check in with them often. If they show any warning signs for suicide, be direct. Tell them it’s OK to talk about suicidal feelings. Practice active listening techniques and let them talk without judgment.

Get them help and take care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to get your loved ones the help they might need. The Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line are always here to talk or chat. They are both available for crisis intervention and to support friends and loved ones.


Be there. Everyone deals with pain differently. A simple act of kindness to the veteran or service member in your life can help that person feel less alone.

Remember, suicide does not discriminate; it is a leading cause of death among all Americans, not just Veterans and First Responders.

For updated Fremont County and Wyoming resources, click here.

Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis should contact the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential crisis intervention and support available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 988 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

Source: https://988lifeline.org/help-yourself/veterans/, https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2021/04/06/suicides-first-responders/, https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/docs/safe_messaging_best_practices.pdf, https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/data.asp

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