Air Force Reserve Sees Uptick in Suicides

Air Force Reserve boss Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee appears on a Sept. 18, 2019, panel during AFA's 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., near Washington, D.C. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

Air Force Reserve boss Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee said Sept. 18 the component has lost 14 of its airmen to suicide so far in 2019—compared to a single instance as of this time last year.

In all but one of this year’s cases, the airmen involved were part of civilian life, not on Reserve status, he explained at a panel discussion during AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference.

Scobee said Air Force Reserve Command is countering suicide within its ranks in two ways.

First, he said, the command is training airmen on how to avoid problems Reservists frequently deal with, largely related to relationships and finances, and giving them the tools to cope with those issues.

Second, the command is working to ensure that its airmen feel connected to their 74,000-person Reserve family, regardless of whether they are on Reserve status.

“Congress and the American people have given us tremendous power and resources available for our airmen,” Scobee said. “How do I make sure [airmen] know that they always have access to that, and there’s no stigma attached with it”

He told Reservists in the audience they can write to him directly to get help with tracking down counseling and other resources.

“I always have resources to take care of airmen—always,” he told the crowd.

Air Force leaders have pushed for greater focus on suicide and mental health since Aug. 1, when they ordered units to stop operations for one day in the coming weeks to discuss resiliency with their airmen.

The Air Force recorded 79 suicides so far in 2019 as of the end of July—nearly as many as it saw in 2018, in about half the time, Air Force Magazine previously reported. The service reported about 100 suicides per year from 2014 to 2018.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright believes suicide is the biggest problem the service faces; Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called it “an adversary that is killing more of our airmen than any enemy on the planet.”

The Veterans Crisis Hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for veterans, service members, and their family members and friends who need help. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, text 838255, or visit