It is unfortunate, but it usually takes a tragedy for people to understand what is truly needed. As soldiers are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, basic needs are being met, but there are far too many that even when they come home, they are troubled and feel suicide is their only way out.
In a recent report it was shown that more than ½ of the Vets were either members of the National Guard or the Reserve – accounting for 53% of troops from 2001 – 2005, with many staying away from home for 18 months and serving 2 or 3 tours of duty.
Too see these statistics is alarming and heartbreaking. To see it another way, these men and women were our future and lost their lives in part because of their time in war. All lives lost are tragic – these suicides may have been preventable if they had received proper care.
President Bush did sign a bill that requires the VA to improve its mental health training and the way screenings and treatment is handled. Why? According to VA research 144 vets have committed suicide with an average age of 20 – 29. In preliminary reports, the suicide rate in 2006 rose 17.3 per 100,000, with approximately 121 soldiers committing suicide in 2006 – if these numbers are correct, the number would be twice the number reported in 2001.
The solution unfortunately is more complicated than we realize. VA clinics and family doctors can receive additional training, families can be taught what to look for – but in the end it is the person themselves who has the control. Many fear the idea of admitting they have a problem over actually committing suicide. To admit to it says “they are weak,” when they know, “I am a soldier, I can handle this.” Much of this is due to stigma that is placed on mental health – not until that stigma is broken will we have an honest chance at saving those who need help.
What can you do to break the stigma and save a life?