On September 28, 2023, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released a memo directing urgent actions to address suicide in the military community, building upon two years of significant work towards suicide prevention across the Department of Defense (DoD).

Following the Secretary’s establishment of the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC) in 2021, the SPRIRC conducted internal reviews of 11 military installations consisting of 457 focus groups and interviews with 2,106 Service members and 670 civilian staff. Guided by this review and existing research, the SPRIRC made 127 near- and long-term recommendations to address this critical problem within the ranks.

The Secretary’s memo outlines the Department’s campaign to reduce the number of suicides throughout the Armed Forces across five lines of effort — Foster a Supportive Environment, Improve the Delivery of Mental Health Care, Address Stigma and Other Barriers to Care, Revise Suicide Prevention Training, and Promote a Culture of Lethal Means Safety. The lines of effort are supported by numerous enabling tasks that will transform the Department’s efforts on suicide prevention. These lines of effort are in line with the Secretary’s Taking Care of Our People initiative and emphasize the Department’s commitment to the well-being of the Total Force.

The Department remains committed to reducing the number of deaths by suicide throughout the Armed Forces and is pursuing an aggressive timeline for planning and implementation of the Secretary’s five lines of effort, prioritizing the most impactful actions to set a solid foundation for long-term progress. The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness will oversee implementation efforts across the Department and will ensure implementation is conducted expediently and methodically. DoD aims to have full implementation of each line of effort by the end of fiscal year 2030.

The memo “New DoD Actions to Prevent Suicide in the Military” can be found here.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. Call the Veteran’s Crisis Hotline at 9-8-8 and visit https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ to learn more.