Monday, September 3, 2018

Suicide in Our Military

Did you know September is National Suicide Prevention Month? There is much focus on suicide in recent months. Any life lost is terrible, and the announcement that David Buckel, Kate Spade, and Jon Paul Steuer took their lives was sad, each announcement brought more attention to the epidemic.

Suicide is a national problem that affects communities and families. It also affects our military in a major way. If we look at the statistics of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, they report 20 veterans who commit suicide each day. Veterans’ suicides make up 18% of suicide deaths.
If you look at a research report in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal, you’ll read that Army suicides increased 80% from 2004 to 2008. The Army is not the only branch of military affected by suicide. In a recent US Veterans Magazine article, they quoted Dr. Gerstenhaber to have said, “The suicide rate for our veterans and active duty is around 50% higher than for their civilian counterparts, showing what a serious issue we have on our hands.” They quoted him as also having said, “This group of people have a tremendous amount of stress, and they need to know it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help. We have programs in place that have been successful in helping to reduce the suicide rates, and we want to expand those to help others around the nation.”
Dr. Gerstenhaber works with EOD Warrior Foundation to address the need to reduce the suicide rates. Together they continue to study and work closely with families affected by suicide. They established the EOD Warrior Foundation (through a merger of the EOD Memorial Foundation and the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation) on March 1, 2013. They work to assist the community of Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) technicians. This organization is just one of many working with our veterans to assist our military to eradicate suicide.
We live in a time not so different from our forefathers. The one advantage we have is an openness and acceptance within our communities. We have developed programs to assist those in need. We have taken the time to devote to studies and statistics. Now we have to band together to offer our veterans a hand up (versus a handout). We need to learn to recognize the early signs of suicide and support those that cry out silently for help.
We may not hear their silent cries, but we can learn to recognize the signs and reach out to those that give so much of themselves to their country. We owe it to them, their families, and our country. 

Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

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