How Investigation of Military Suicides can Improve Prevention Resources

Understanding military-involved suicides to improve prevention in Wisconsin

Full Project Name:Remembering the Lost: How Investigation of Military Suicides can Improve Prevention ResourcesPrimary Community Organization:Mental Health America of Wisconsin (MHA)Primary Academic Partner:Sara Kohlbeck, MPH, Emergency MedicinePrincipal Investigator:Stephen Hargarten, MD, Emergency MedicineAward Amount:$399,771
Award Date
October2020
Project Duration:36 months

Project Description Narrative:


In Wisconsin, death by suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. This rate is even higher for veteran and active-duty military service members. Of veterans who die by suicide, approximately 70% are not engaged with any health care services through the Veterans Administration. To better understand the true burden of veteran and active-military deaths by suicide, improved data collection is needed along with improved understanding of the life circumstances that preceded these deaths and the contributing factors that may have resulted in these disproportionately high suicide rates.

Through this award, project partners will aim to investigate the difference in circumstances which precede military-involved suicides, specifically as related to variances in access to benefits. New knowledge will be gained through qualitative analysis to inform decision makers on risk and protective factors, and ultimately to improve transitions of care and vital record reporting of military suicides.

Project Updates:


  • Connected veteran vital record data to Wisconsin Circuit Court Access data to learn more about the data linkage and shared preliminary findings with a national audience
  • Conducted five interviews to date with relatives and those close to veteran decedents to learn more about the veteran experience
  • Identified key themes from interviews and research that could help guide Veterans Affairs (VA) services and increase suicide risk awareness for service providers, including themes related to overcoming a reluctance to engage with VA services and that those who commit suicide tend to have very low engagement with VA services
  • Presenting preliminary findings at the American Association of Suicidology and submitting an abstract to the Wisconsin Public Health Association annual conference

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