The suicide rate among military veterans has been given significant attention in the last decade from the media and military officials. Through past reports, experts were able to determine that active service members are less likely to commit suicide. Only when they leave the military do suicide rates skyrocket. Though much research has been conducted on this issue, it has focused largely on male veterans until now.
The Veteran Affairs (VA) recently published a report that analyzed female veteran suicides over a span of 11 years. The results revealed that they commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of nonveterans.
When broken down by age group, female veterans aged 18 to 29 commit suicide at 12 times the rate of nonveterans. This means that the younger female veterans are committing suicide at twice the rate of the overall female veteran population. VA researchers could not offer a definitive cause of these troubling statistics, but did offer potential explanations.
The first of which uses another issue among the female veteran population to explain the suicide rate, sexual assault. It is estimated that 23% of women in the military have experienced unwanted sexual contact, 10% of which involve rape. The prolonged distress associated with experiences of sexual assault can lead an individual to develop depression and other psychological illnesses. Ultimately, the victim may take her life.
The second explanation attempted to account for the disproportionately high rate among female veterans in comparison to women overall. Usually, women tend to use pills or other methods besides a firearm when attempting suicide. Such attempts are less lethal than a firearm and result in less successful attempts.
According to government surveys female veterans are more likely than other women to have guns according to government surveys, and thus use them in suicide attempts more often than other women.
Experts also believe soldier’s backgrounds may account for the suicide rate. Previous research showed that men and women who join the military are more likely to have endured difficult childhoods. Since women have only served in the military on a voluntary basis, their damaging childhood experiences may be the reason for taking their own lives in addition to their initial choice to enlist.
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