NMFA Responds to DoD Release of Family Member Suicide Data


Today, the Department of Defense released its second annual report on suicide among military family members.

For years, the National Military Family Association (NMFA) urged DoD to track and report on military family member suicide. As the post-9/11 wars dragged on, combat and operational tempo brought increased stress and trauma home to military families. Families came to us with stories of grief and loss. Our Association heard anecdotal evidence suggesting a spike in suicides, but we had no data to know for sure.

That’s why we pressed Congress for legislation requiring DoD to report on the issue. Congress passed this legislation in the FY2015 NDAA, and after four years, DoD finally made good and released data for 2017 in fall of 2019. Our question remained unanswered: How did military family suicide rates change during the war years? What is the true cost of war?

Today, we are no more knowledgeable. But we are grateful for DoD’s continued commitment to ensuring military family member suicide is known – and reported on. Below is our Association’s statement on today’s report.

The loss of even one military family member to suicide is an unspeakable tragedy. We must ensure military families have the support and resources they need to prevent this devastating loss of life. However, without data it’s impossible to understand the scope of the problem or address it effectively. For that reason, we are pleased that for the second year in a row the Department of Defense has included data on military family member suicide in its Annual Suicide Report.

While the data is still limited, it does provide valuable and much-needed information about military family members most at risk of suicide and allows DoD and community organizations to develop more effective prevention strategies. We encourage the DoD to invest resources to understand the effect of stresses that military families endure and the impact of preventive measures available to military families. If people are the fourth line of effort in the National Defense Strategy, DoD must continue to collect, analyze, report, and act on this insight.

It’s unfortunate the data in the report is from 2018 and 2019 and does not include the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on service member or military family suicides. We know our families, like all families, are under increased stress due to the pandemic. DoD must work proactively to ensure military families have the support and resources they need. Better, more current data is essential.

If you or a family member are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, please call the Military Crisis Line for confidential support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.