The military is getting closer to gender equality, but in the worst way: Female military veterans’ suicide rates are almost matched with those of male veterans.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the number of female suicides to male suicides in civilians is 5.2 to 20.9 per 100,000. For veterans, the numbers almost match: For every 100,000 vets, 28.7 women and 32.1 men take their own lives. Female veterans are 12 times more likely to commit suicide than female civilians. The Times notes, “In the general population, women attempt suicide more often than men but succeed less because women usually use pills or other methods that are less lethal than firearms. Female veterans, however, are more likely than other women to have guns, government surveys have shown.”
Most research into military and veterans’ suicides has been focused on men, and somewhat rightly so, as they comprise 90 percent of troops, but the reasons for the staggering female veteran suicide rate needs to be a point of focus in itself. There could be a slew of potential causes, with experts citing sexual assaults and the traumas stemming from them a likely factor. (When you consider that 10 percent of women in the military report being raped and 13 percent report being touched inappropriately, that gets scary. It gets even scarier when you consider the number of incidents that go unreported.)
Some research suggests that it’s not necessarily what happens during one’s service, but the individual people who join the military that contribute to suicides. Recent research suggests that many military service men and women are survivors of prior traumas, including sexual and emotional abuse. It’s unclear whether the job in which these troops seek refuge hinders or helps their recovery from negative childhoods, but Hell if it doesn’t need to be looked into further.