Surviving War, Falling to Suicide
Suffering an IED blast on the battlefield is most certainly a traumatic event, especially when accompanied by witnessing the death or injury of other service members or civilians. Untangling the physical from the mental damage is never easy.
But doctors and veterans’ advocates feel that they are running out of time, given the skyrocketing rates of suicide among active-duty soldiers and veterans. According to the most recent statistics, Army and Navy suicides are at a record high: 2012 was the worst year for self-inflicted deaths since the military began tracking them in 2001. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta last summer called the situation an “epidemic” — with approximately 3,000 military suicides on record since 9/11.
The numbers are even worse for veterans — an estimated 18 veterans kill themselves each day, 6,570 a year. That’s comparable, advocates point out, to the approximately 6,600 men and women we’ve lost in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
“We’re a decade behind where we should be,” says Rieckhoff. “If I had to say, it is the most urgent issue we face. The suicide problem is out of control.”
IAVA has counselors on staff who work one-on-one with veterans every day. “It’s not only one thing that leads to suicide, it’s a culmination of a couple of things,” says Rieckhoff. “What you’ve got is a generation of veterans who have shouldered the weight of combat through unprecedented long tours, repeated tours, compounded by a bad economic situation and a really bad bureaucratic situation with the VA” when they finally get home. “There’s a lot of issues piling up.”
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