DENVER (KDVR) — Behind all the barbecues is a grim reality. Memorial Day was established in 1966 to honor the nation’s military personnel who died while serving. Sadly, veterans are more likely to die by their own hand than in combat, and in Colorado, that number rose in the last year of available data.
Veteran suicides happen at higher rates than the general public, about 150% of the national average. It is the second leading cause of death among soldiers under the age of 45, with over 125,000 veteran suicides occurring since 2001.
The number of veteran suicides fell in 2020 in the U.S. In Colorado, however, deaths rose to their highest levels on record afterward.
There were 248 veteran suicides in 2021, up from 205 the year before. The average annual number has risen 59% since 2010. In 2010, there were 156 veteran suicides in Colorado.
As a percentage, veteran suicides are an average 17% of Colorado’s suicides from 2015 to 2021, roughly one out of every six. El Paso County, which has a large military community, accounted for about one in five.
Veteran suicides follow the general upward trend with Colorado suicides in total. In 2021, there were a record 1,370 in all, the highest total on record and nearly twice the amount from 2004.