On Veterans Day and throughout the year, we recognize our nation’s heroes for their service to our country. Even after their time in uniform has ended, many of those who served continue to fight internal battles. Today, military suicide rates have reached an all-time high. The Pentagon’s Defense Suicide Prevention Office reported the number of suicides in the United States military increased 25% in the first quarter of 2023 as compared to the same period last year. Leadership at federal agencies can play an important role in reversing this heartbreaking trend by fostering an inclusive workplace environment and taking the initiative to increase awareness, offer resources and connect their veteran employees with a network of health care professionals.
While the federal government has taken steps in the right direction to address veteran mental health needs, such as Congress’ introduction of the bipartisan Veterans Mental and Behavioral Health Quality of Care Act of 2023, legislation is slow to make its way through the hallways of the U.S. Capitol when time is of the essence. A Military Medicine study found that service members transitioning from active duty to civilian life are at high risk of substance abuse and may turn to alcohol and drug use as a way to cope with trauma, anxiety, physical pain and depression.