By Russell Lemle, originally on Military.com
In the VA’s recently released National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which covered 2020 to 2021, the suicide rate among women veterans jumped 24.1 percent — far greater than the 6.3 percent increase among male veterans.
Firearms were used in 51.7 percent of women veterans' suicides, more often than all other methods combined. (The rate of women veterans dying by firearm suicide was nearly three times higher than for non-veteran women.)
These grim statistics should serve as a wake-up call for the need to pay close attention to the risk of firearm suicide for women veterans. This work requires a hard look at how ready access to firearms during dark moments correlates with deadly outcomes.
There are wide-ranging reasons why rates of firearm suicides for women veterans are rapidly rising. Gun ownership among women in general has doubled over the past 15 years. Half of women veterans either personally own a firearm or live in a household with one, far more than non-veteran women. Those firearms are stored unsafely approximately 43 percent of the time, more so among those with thoughts of suicide.
VHPI Senior Analyst Russell Lemle has spent years focused on commonsense policies to incentivize and ensure safe firearm storage. Read his new Military.com Op-Ed, co-authored by Nancy Espinosa, on the issue here.