Officials at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said about 6,500 veterans committed suicide last year, accounting for nearly 20 percent of all suicides in the United States.
Principal investigator Julie Cerel, associate professor in the University of Kentucky College of Social Work, said she and colleagues were investigating the incidence of suicide exposure and consequences of suicide bereavement on veterans and military families.
The study, funded by the Department of Defense, will look at the "suicide bereaved," those who have lost a loved one, family member, friend or fellow service member/veteran to suicide.
"We really do not know how many people are personally affected by a suicide in their family, workplace or community," Cerel said in a statement. "Our previous research suggests that about 40 percent of people know someone who has died by suicide and that almost 1-in-5 people report they have been personally affected by a suicide."
The Pentagon disclosed in June more active duty service members killed themselves in the first half of this year than had died in combat, Cerel said.
"It will also help us examine exposure to suicide in the general population, so we can show that suicide affects families, communities and workplaces," Cerel said.