Saturday, October 13, 2012

Veteran suicide rate reaches epidemic status

he biggest threat both on and off the battlefield is suicide, not enemy bullets or bombs. A recent study has determined that more military personal space die of suicide than as a result of enemy action. Veterans and military service members have always had a higher rate of suicide compared to the civilian population but it has increased. This increase in veteran and military suicide is in doubt related to the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the ongoing operations in Iraq. We have been at war for over a decade now and repeated deployments to these war torn regions is injuring the souls and minds of our fighting men and women.

Mental health issues appear to be the cause of this increased rate of suicide for veterans. Many veterans return home with depression, PTSD and or substance abuse problems. I know these problems well because they are my problems too. I have even grappled with suicidal thinking and resulting hospitalizations. There were times that my military related PTSD and depression almost got the best of me.

So what saved my life from becoming another statistic in the veteran's suicide rate? What saved my life was reaching out for help when i needed it. When i felt hopeless and thought that i couldn't march on as a young disabled veteran, i luckily, called my therapist almost every time. The result was sometimes short term hospitalization but it saved my life.

What veterans at risk for suicide need to realize is that asking for help when depressed or suicidal is not a weakness and they will not be judged by doing so. There should be no second thinking a call for help but i can picture people being hesitant to do so. It is because we ask ourselves "what will they think?" Nobody wants to be thought of as a crazy or unstable person. Yet when we do decide to reveal that we have very personal or emotional problems, we feel vulnerable in doing so because we do not want to be thought of any differently.

However, veterans should know that if they are hospitalized for suicidal behavior then there may be civil consequences to face after the hospitalization. For example, i was hospitalized for suicidal behavior at a veterans hospital. Within a year after the hospitalization i received notice from the state of Illinois that said i was no longer allowed to get a firearms owner card. The notice went on to say that i basically can't own guns anymore. This restriction didn't upset me too much because I don't own firearms but it does hurt to have my rights limited.

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