With the suicide rate among National Guard members the highest in the military, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is requesting that the Department of Defense determine why the problem is so acute.
The department’s Annual Suicide Report for Calendar Year 2018 found that National Guard suicides, at a rate of 30.6 per 100,000, were above that of the U.S. population as a whole and those of the active and reserve populations in the military.
“We also ask that you provide an analysis of any explanatory factors contributing to difference in suicide rates between the Active and Reserve Component and the National Guard,” the Oct. 16 letter read. Six Democratic, two Republican, and one independent senator signed the letter.
In 2018, 138 active duty soldiers died by suicide. Each branch reported a record high number, with the exception of the Air Force.
The Colorado Health Institute reports that only 7.3% of Colorado veterans disclose poor mental health, which is lower than the 12.3% for nonveterans. However, nearly 70% of veterans who did not seek mental health care cited stigma-related reasons, double the percentage of nonveterans.
“The reality that National Guard soldiers and airmen are not connected to the military community on a daily basis is important to consider,” the letter continued. “Their inherently more isolating structure could be another contributing factor that is worth examining.”
The senators cited the unique role of National Guard members in deploying to the border, to wildfires in the Western United States, and responding to other natural disasters. They requested the Pentagon report back to Congress by December.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s phone number is 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). Press "1" to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.