February 12, 2009

Why Are Our Soldiers and Veterans Killing Themselves?

I received this comment today on an older article that I wrote back on April 17, 2008. This comment compliments a recent post from February 8 on the VA Mental Health System,
Its not only the VA - but the lack of support from the military. When soldiers try to go to the military to get help for PTSD and other war combat related injuries - they are brushed aside... and told that they need to suck it up.

Regardless of what the Army says to try to cover this up - its obvious by the amount of suicides that are still going on today... if the proper help was given to those coming back to war, suicides would not be on the rise.

My husband is a combat wounded soldier at Fort Bragg. The Warrior Transition Unit is ran by National Guard - by many who have not even been to war. There are less than 100 combat wounded soldiers in the Warrior Transition Unit with almost 600 soldiers total. Guys who have broken legs from training are put in with combat injured soldiers - the mix is not working.

The Warrior Transition Unit needs to separate the combat wounded from other soldiers and treat them with 1. RESPECT 2. DIGNITY 3. COMPASSION.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Why all of the red tape?
 My original post,

Who is Killing our Veterans?...in the coming years we are going to see a growing trend in veterans suicide. On Nov. 13, 2007 CBS reported:
Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror. They had the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times higher than civilians the same age. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)
This is just the beginning, the Iraqi veterans have been exposed to unprecedented levels of sustained combat. Never before in the American history of War have our soldiers seen three and four tours of combat as a common experience.

Penny Coleman, author of Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, and the Lessons of War testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on December 12, 2007,
My name is Penny Coleman. I am the widow of Daniel O’Donnell, a Vietnam veteran who came home from his war with what is now known as PTSD and subsequently took his own life. I use the term PTSD grudgingly—it is the official term, but it is deeply problematic. My husband did not have a disorder. He had an injury that was a direct result of his combat experience in Vietnam. Calling it a disorder is dangerous; it reinforces the idea that a traumatically injured soldier is defective, and that idea is precisely the stigma that keeps soldiers from asking for help when they need it.
She goes on to report that more than 6256 veterans commit suicide each year.

Over 30 years have passed since the Vietnam War ended, since then more than 180,000 veteran deaths have been attributed to suicide. 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from mental illness. 58,000 names emblazon the black granite in Washington D.C. at the Vietnam Memorial Wall, one third of the amount of veteran's deaths attributed to suicide.

The VA system is poorly underfunded and not ready to take on such a high level of veterans needing mental health care...as we will see in the next 10-20 years.


  1. You're right-- the VA is underfunded. However, change is here and new programs are being formed at VA's across the country to address the growing number of returning combat veterans. As a social worker on an OEF/OIF care management team at a VA, I have seen how successful the programs can be in helping veterans recover and adjust to civilian life. However, I am still frustrated because it's not enough. We need more clinicians, otherwise it is up to the private sector to step in and many civilian clinicians are not trained to handle combat stress. Our clinicians are well trained but they are overloaded and the bureaucratic red tape is a hindrance to helping the veterans. It's enough to make me almost "burn out" after only working for 8 months at my first job as an MSW.

  2. I will be on the front lines in 2011, I am finishing up my juinor year of my BSW and then I am off to advanced standing to complete my MSSW in just one year!

    Keep on, keeping on. You are fighting the good fight!


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