Suicide Risk Multiplies for Service Members
> 6/12/2007 11:21:52 AM

Soldiers who've experienced the horrors of combat and lawlessness sure to accompany any lengthy military campaign are inevitably prone to depression, drug abuse and especially PTSD - this fact is well established. But a recent large-scale survey indicates that the issue is much more tragically prevalent: the suicide rate for service members, particularly men, who've seen action in the field is more than twice that of the general public. They also very often end their lives with firearms - veterans are considerably more likely to own weapons for personal use, and those who commit suicide use a gun more often than others in a shocking reflection of the violence that leads so many into that most desperate state.

Approximately one-third of the study's more than 300,000 participants served during a period stretching from WWII to the first Gulf War. While conflicts considered in the survey extended only to 1991, with researchers deciding against the inclusion of the ongoing fallout from the struggle in Iraq, its implications are troubling to say the least. While modern medicine has allowed for far more soldiers to survive severe injuries, our mastery of mental illness is not nearly so complete. In the words of the study's lead researcher:

"I don't see anything out there that really bodes well for a decline in the risk for suicide. I think that this will persist."

Certain small facts add elements of interest to the results: older, white, well-educated men, especially those suffering from major health problems, made up the group most at risk. Women were not considered as they represented a much smaller portion of the study pool and their suicide rates were negligable. Health care was not a factor considered in the equation, so unsatisfactory coverage or an absence of beneficial therapies could not be blamed for the stunning numbers. The study was not designed to explain the reasons behind this terrible trend, but one can certainly draw obvious conclusions: the trauma of months spent in the theatres of foreign turmoil, surrounded by the horrid air of death and far removed from loved ones, lead many into a state of perpetual shock, profoundly altering neurological and emotional response systems. Some never recover.

General sentiment, unfortunately, seems intent on furthering the tragic assertion that soldiers who seek treatment do so due to an inability to respond to and "deal with" the horrors of combat. The fact that an increasing number of soldiers now enroll in therapy has led some to dismiss younger servicemen as weak, ravaged by self-doubt. Some report physical and psychological punishment or threats of expulsion at the hands of commanding officers. But despite romantic nostalgia for times past, those who served our nation in previous conflicts were no braver, more patriotic, or stronger of will. We now simply have a far clearer understanding of PTSD, depression and the havok those conditions wreak on the psyches of even the best-grounded individuals. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent or erase the risk. While personal or group therapy and regular discussions with fellow veterans similarly affected by the war experience may not be universal miracle cures, they are undeniably beneficial to many - and should be encouraged for all.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy