High Suicide Rates Among United States Service Members and Veterans of the Post-9/11 Wars

As a part of their 20 Years of War series, the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University and the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University have released High Suicide Rates Among United States Service Members and Veterans of the Post-9/11 Wars. Since 9/11, it is estimated that “30,177 active duty service members and war veterans of the post 9/11 wars have died by suicide, significantly more than the 7,057 killed in ‘Global War on Terror’ military operations.” The suicide rate of active duty service members during the Global War on Terror is the highest it has been since before World War 2, and this paper seeks to shed light on these alarming trends.

Are there unique elements of the post-9/11 wars that contribute to the high suicide rate? The author explores multiple possible factors, including a diminishing public approval of the wars, the protracted length of the war coupled with the redeployment of service members, and the increased usage of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) leading to a rise of traumatic brain injuries.

Furthermore, some of the general causes of suicide among military members are examined in depth, including traumatic experience and PTSD, military sexual trauma, access to lethal means, and the difficulty of returning to civilian life.

Ultimately according to the author, it is clear that “[u]nless the U.S. government and U.S. society makes significant changes in the ways we manage the mental health crisis among our service members and veterans, suicide rates will continue to climb. That is a cost of war we cannot accept.”


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