August 30, 2013
Tuesday I watched a rough cut of Terrible Love. The trailer came out in May and I was not only impressed with the work Christopher Thomas did, but proud of consulting on it. The best part of the movie was when the wife of a National Guardsmen looked at him asking "Who are you?" when their lives were falling apart. It was clear she had some understanding of what PTSD was but just didn't know enough to matter.
It is something that happens all over this country everyday when they come home, seem changed just a bit at first but as time goes by, they are less and less able to hide what is really going on inside of their heads.
I remember those days very well. It was almost impossible to stay even knowing what was going on inside of my husband's head. That was back when no one was talking about families like mine. It was before the internet, Facebook, online support groups and way before anyone in the press cared. It is astonishing for me to read all of the problems we faced over 30 years ago are still going on no matter how much has been done to fix it. It is almost as if nothing has been done in all this time since history has been repeated over and over again.
How do you fix something without first understanding the cause? That is what the military has been doing since 2006. They come up with all of these prevention programs at the same time they say they do not know what causes some to be hit by PTSD. At the same time we read about this program and another one, we're also reading how some are being discharged with personality disorders. That one really makes me laugh because reporters don't seem to be aware of the fact the military does testing on the mental health of the recruits as well as physical tests. If they ended up allowing in soldiers with personality disorders as they claim than that would mean their testing failed. No reporter has asked them to validate their claim.
The military claims that most of the soldiers committing suicide had never deployed but so far there are unanswered questions as to how many have been a victim of military sexual trauma, hazing, abuse or asked to be discharged because they discovered joining the military was a horrible mistake for them.
The military has also had a habit of discharging troops with PTSD as soon as possible so they won't have to accept responsibility for what they do afterwards. Nice trick but a messy one. While some commanders are doing these discharges, others are redeploying soldiers with PTSD. Some commanders think it is a phony illness at the same time some courageously come out and talk about their own unseen wound and how PTSD changed them.
Some reporters are trying to do something about all of this and they have been paying attention. The Huffington Post has an article by David Wood "Military And Veteran Suicides Rise Despite Aggressive Prevention Efforts" and he hit most points you read here every day. He included the numbers on Vietnam Veterans usually left out of the reports even though they are the largest group in the VA claims pile of new claims and backlog. Here is part of his article.
WASHINGTON -- The good news: most people with military service never consider suicide. Contrary to popular perception, there is no "epidemic" of military-related suicides -- even though President Barack Obama used the word in a speech this summer at the Disabled American Veterans Convention. Among those few whose lives do spiral down toward darkness and despair, the vast majority never take that irrevocable step.
The bad news: the number of military and veteran suicides is rising, and experts fear it will continue to rise despite aggressive suicide prevention campaigns by the government and private organizations.
The Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), already struggling to meet an increasing demand from troops and veterans for mental health services, are watching the suicide rates, and the growing number of those considered "at risk" of suicide, with apprehension.
"It really is extremely concerning," said Caitlin Thompson, a VA psychologist and clinical care coordinator at the national crisis line for the military and veterans.
The warning signs of an approaching wave of suicides are unmistakable.
-- While the rate of suicides has traditionally been lower for the military ranks than for civilians, that trend has begun to reverse.
-- The number of suicides among active-duty troops of all services remains relatively low, at 350 last year, Pentagon data show. But that number has more than doubled since 2001, while in the Army's active-duty ranks, suicides have tripled during the same period, from 52 soldiers in 2001 to 185 last year.
-- Roughly half of active-duty troops who die by suicide never served in Iraq or Afghanistan. But there is growing evidence that war trauma weighs heavily on those who did. In one indication of deep emotional stress, the suicide rate among U.S. troops deployed to Iraq between 2004 and 2007, a period of intensified fighting, jumped from 13.5 to 24.8 per 100,000, according to a report issued in 2009 by the Army surgeon general.
-- Some 8,000 veterans are thought to die by suicide each year, a toll of about 22 per day, according to a 2012 VA study. The VA acknowledged the numbers might be significantly underestimated because they're based on incomplete data from 21 states, not including Texas or California. Even so, the data documents an increase of nearly 11 percent between 2007 and 2010, the most recent year of data in the study.
-- The population of veterans over 50 -- more than two-thirds of all veterans -- is swelling with aging baby boomers. Mostly men, they are considered more at-risk of suicide because they tend to be socially isolated, struggle with physical or mental deterioration, and possess easy familiarity with firearms.
I left this comment
Really great job on this and glad you talked about Vietnam veterans but I don't think people understand that after all these years of doing "something" because that generation of veterans fought for it, the numbers are worse now. You brought up how veterans are 22% of the suicides but they are also only 7% of the population. You brought up National Guards and Reservists but their numbers were not included in the 350 suicides for last year, which is also wrong. Citizen soldier suicides for last year are 140. As of July DOD reports there have already been 90 this year
While the full Suicide Event Report for 2012 has still not been released, even though this is the end of August, it contains one more subject not covered enough. Attempted suicides also show a clear problem. 915 more attempted suicide in 2011 while "successful" suicides were 301.
Obviously I couldn't supply the links to what I wrote, so I am doing it right now.
This is the link to the 2011 Suicide Event Report and on page one of the summary you will find the numbers. This report contains data by branch, means, demographics and perhaps the most important topic not discussed in the press, attempted suicides.
The AFMES indicates that 301 Service Members died by suicide in 2011 (Air Force = 50, Army = 167, Marine Corps = 32, Navy = 52).
This number includes deaths strongly suspected to be suicides that are pending final determination. DoDSER Points of Contact (POCs) submitted reports for 100% of AFMES confirmed 2011 suicides (Air Force = 46, Army = 159, Marine Corps = 31, Navy = 51) as of the data extraction date (26 April 2012).
A total of 915 Service Members attempted suicide in 2011 (Air Force = 241, Army = 432, Marine Corps = 156, Navy = 86).
DoDSERs were submitted for 935 suicide attempts (Air Force = 251, Army = 440, Marine Corps = 157, Navy = 87). Of the 915 Service Members who attempted suicide, 896 had one attempt, 18 had two attempts, and 1 had three attempts.
But that isn't the worst part.
•Known use of psychotropic medication was reported more frequently for suicide attempts (n = 400, 42.78%) compared to suicides (n = 75, 26.13%). Antidepressants were the most frequently used psychotropic medication among suicide decedents (n = 64, 22.30%) and those who attempted suicide (n = 342, 36.58%).
•DoDSERs indicated that 48 decedents (16.72%) had received outpatient behavioral health services within the month prior to suicide. Service Members who attempted suicide used outpatient behavioral health services more frequently (n = 570, 60.96%) than those who died by suicide (n = 114, 39.72%).
On the veterans suicides percentages, here is the link to that report. Veterans 7% of population 22% of suicides
This shows how "About 46 percent had been seen at a military treatment facility sometime in the 90 days before death. The treatment services include physical and behavioral health, substance abuse, family advocacy and chaplains." Military suicide numbers show efforts producing deplorable results and they have been basically admitting they know none of it works.
If you want your blood to really boil over this here is where part of the money on suicide prevention went including $677,000 to the University of Kentucky to fund a two year research project on 100 families to see how they felt after their veteran committed suicide and another $3.8 million to UCLA School of Dentistry to study saliva and $3 million on a nasal spray study. Approximately 3,400 researchers will work on more than 2,300 projects with nearly $1.9 billion in funding.
When I was putting together the research for THE WARRIOR SAW, SUICIDES AFTER WAR, I had only a fraction of the money spent on Wounded Times. I was totally repulsed discovering how much money was being spent producing a higher rate of suicides while not producing a higher rate of healing. The truth is it turned out to be billions a year spent by our government and you can read how it is broken down. Every report in this book is sourced by news reports, government reports and what many experts have slammed as not fitting in with military culture. The results speak for themselves.
More graves filled and more suffering. To think that families are suffering the way I was back when efforts were just beginning is like a dagger in my heart. There were reasons why I didn't understand why my husband changed. There are no excuses for this generation of wives to look at the stranger that came back in their husband's body.
September is "suicide prevention" month but because we didn't pay attention all this time there will be more we didn't prevent. This is what we knew in 1978