On or off the battlefield, the war weary men and women often carry emotional scars. These scars usually involve afflictions such as anxiety, sleeplessness, nightmares, stress and depression. These normal reactions to physical and emotional disorders are labeled as a “mental illness” known as PTSD.
At one point in time, the military used various methods of treatment which consisted of compassion, understanding and love. These methods have been replaced by a “psychiatric pop-a-pill “quick fix” mentality. This new mentality consists primarily of the use of antidepressants, antipsychotics, stimulants, sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs.” These medications can have serious consequences and evidence shows that the increasing use of such drugs may be fueling an epidemic of military suicides as well as unexplained deaths.
“Suicide among active duty soldiers has steadily risen… in 2012 it surpassed the number of troops killed in Afghanistan.”
Of all the issues facing American soldiers today, suicide is among the most heart wrenching and baffling within the military. Over nearly 12 years and 2 wars, suicide among active duty soldiers has steadily risen, hitting a record of 350 in the year 2012. This surpassed the number of troops killed in Afghanistan. Although the Pentagon has initiated numerous reports and spent billions on research and preventive programs, the general consensus is that we are really no closer to understanding the root causes of why military suicides are rising at such an alarming rate.
“Any one variable in isolation does not explain things,” said Craig J.Bryan, associate director of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah. “But the interaction of all of them do. That is what makes it very difficult to solve the problem. And that’s why we haven’t made any advances.”
The fast rising consensus is that a complex web of factors usually underlie military suicides; these factors consist of mental illness, sexual or physical abuse, addictions, failed relationships or financial struggles. It is believed that frequent deployments and exposure to a war zone can act as a catalyst that simply worsens existing problems.
If you, a friend or a family member is feeling suicidal, take action. In the case of a loved one, do not be afraid to ask; you will NOT be putting the idea in their head! If anyone you know has a plan to hurt themselves, the means to do so (e.g., I have a gun and will shoot myself), and will not make a contract with you to stay safe, you should call 911 immediately.
It is also of vital importance that you seek help that is available in your local area. Visit http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits to find a location near you, or call 800-273-8255 for the Veteran’s Crisis Line. These programs are designed to help our returning soldiers cope with their particular issues. Also, services are available to help families learn how to identify warning signals, as well as to avoid topics or words that may be a trigger to your soldier’s illness. All in all, if a soldier is encouraged to seek help and is lovingly supported by the family, the prognosis is very good for all involved.
For additional information, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.