ARIZONA NEWS

Veterans make up 20% of suicide victims in Arizona, ASU study finds

Nov 11, 2021, 4:35 AM
(File photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)...
(File photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(File photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — An Arizona State University study released Tuesday found veterans made up 20% of suicide deaths in the state from 2015 to 2019.

The data was collected from multiple sources, including death certificates issued by the Arizona Department of Health Services, police reports, and death investigation and autopsy reports from medical examiner offices.

A sample of 6,066 suicides in Arizona between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2019, was studied by the ASU Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety.

It was found that overall suicide rates per 100,000 population were higher for both men and women veterans compared to non-veteran counterparts, and that male veterans were much more at risk (52.2) compared to women veterans (21.8).

“We know that veterans who commit suicide are at significantly higher risk of physical health problems or experiencing physical health problems prior to suicide,” Charles Katz, director of the center and professor at the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.

He added a third of veterans who committed suicide had a substantial physical health problem prior to their suicide.

“We know they experience significantly higher rates of life stressors, not more traditional relationship issues, not necessarily job issues, but just sort of life stressors which can be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Katz said.

What concerns Katz is that veterans are much less likely to have a history of suicide.

“Oftentimes when non-veterans engage in suicide, they’ve had repeated attempts in the past,” Katz said. “We don’t see that same phenomenon with veterans.

“Oftentimes when they make the decision to engage in a suicide, it’s fatal. We don’t have the same warning signs that perhaps we do with non-veterans.”

Another finding of the study that surprised Katz was the high veteran suicide rate between the ages of 18 and 34, which was found to be 75.9 per 100,000 population by age group. The number decreased in middle age groups before ticking back up with the 75 and older veteran population.

The study also found notable differences in suicide rates per 100,000 population across racial and ethnic groups, with white veterans being the most at-risk (56.3) followed by Black veterans (25.5) and Hispanic veterans (22.2).

While celebrating Veterans Day on Thursday, Katz asks people to think about how they can assist a loved one who is a veteran that may be going through a difficult time.

The study found 78.1% of veteran suicides occurred at a house or an apartment, and that 78.8% used a firearm as the method.

Katz recommends if people know a veteran who is going through a tough time and they have a gun to consider having a conversation with the veteran and removing the gun for at least a short period of time until some worries can be addressed.

“We know that’s a hard decision but we know that vets are significantly more likely to commit suicide at home with a gun, which makes it much more difficult to intervene compared to other populations,” he said.

Katz has no doubt suicides increased significantly in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic but the data is still being worked through and finalized.

He said the difference in suicides last year between veterans and non-veterans has yet to be looked at but Katz hopes to look at that some time after the new year.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Maricopa County flag...
Kevin Stone

7 finalists revealed for vacated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors seat

Seven finalists have been selected for the interview stage in the process to replace Steve Chucri on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
23 hours ago
(Facebook photo/Wendy Rogers), (Wikimedia Commons photo/Gage Skidmore)...
Associated Press

Former President Trump endorses 2 Arizona audit supporters for state Senate

Former President Donald Trump has given his influential endorsement to two Arizona legislative candidates who gained national notoriety for promoting the state Senate's partisan review of the 2020 election.
23 hours ago
(Phoenix Police Department sketches)...
KTAR.com

Reward increased for information on suspects of Phoenix cold case from 2013

Monday marked eight years since a man was murdered at a Phoenix apartment complex and authorities are increasing the reward to help solve the cold case.
23 hours ago
(Facebook photo/Cesar Chavez High School)...
KTAR.com

1 injured, suspect outstanding in shooting at Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix

A teen boy was injured and a suspect was outstanding following a shooting at Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix on Monday, authorities said.
23 hours ago
(Flickr Photo/Grand Canyon National Park)...
Kevin Stone

Grand Canyon National Park transitions to winter operations this week

Grand Canyon National Park is modifying shuttle routes, Mather Campground reservations and North Rim access as part of its annual winter transition.
23 hours ago
Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness (Bureau of Land Management Photo/Bob Wick)...
Associated Press

Arizona ranches, ghost town find new life as conservation areas

A pair of ranches and a ghost town in southern Arizona will be conserved for wildlife and recreation under separate deals brokered recently by nonprofit land trusts.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Facebook Photo/NHTSA)...
Sweet James

Upcoming holiday season is peak time for DUI arrests

The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most dangerous time of the year to be driving. That’s why it’s important to remember to call Sweet James Accident Attorneys if you’re injured or arrested because of a DUI accident.
...
PNC Bank

3 cool tips to turn everyday moments into learning experiences for your child

Early brain development has a crucial impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. Research has shown that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age five.
...
Sweet James

Best fall road trips to take on a motorcycle

Autumn in Arizona brings the beauty of color-changing leaves and a relief from summer heat. It’s one of the most pleasant times to explore the outdoors, especially on a motorcycle.
Veterans make up 20% of suicide victims in Arizona, ASU study finds