Recent research has stated that suicides involving those serving in the military or those who have served, makes up nearly 20% of total suicides that occur in the United States. This statistic clearly shows that the issue of suicide is much worse for those in the armed forces in comparison to the general public. However, no one seems to know and acknowledge this fact.
During the year 2009, among the men and women that served in the military in Afghanistan or served in Iraq, there were a reported 98 suicides and at least 1868 suicide attempts. During this past January alone (January 2010), there have been nearly 25 suicides.
Suicide rates in the military are truly alarming. In fact, the number of veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq that commit suicide each year far exceeds the number of actual deaths in combat. Therefore, mental health problems are clearly one of the most severe and common problems of war, yet it never receives much attention.
Reports from various sources suggest that suicide rates are actually higher for those who have actually been deployed, therefore implying that the longer a man or women is serving in the war, the higher the risk and the worse the suicide rates become among veterans.
According to army officials, personal relationships appear to be the most frequent factor connecting suicides. Lieutenant General Eric Schoomaker stated that it has been found that fractured relationships are the link they are finding in terms of suicides. Army officials however are not recognizing or addressing the strain and corrosive effect that numerous deployments can have on relationships. It was pointed out in January that the rates of mental health problems in conjunction with marital issues are noticeably higher for those experiencing multiple deployments.
In fact, research directed specifically at the effects of multiple deployments has proven that it is the leading factor driving this epidemic of suicide among the military. Officials have suggested reducing the number of deployments each soldier can have and also extending the time spent home with family in between deployments as one of the only ways to immediately reduce suicide rates.
However, in order to make this happen, the Army’s troop strength would need to be expanded, otherwise the number of soldiers deployed at one time would need to be noticeably reduced. Surveys completed on troops also revealed that a soldier’s mental health begins to dramatically fray after being at war for six months. According to Colonel Carl Castro, you begin to see huge differences in not only the soldier’s behavior, but in their PTSD rates, scores on depression inventories, and other various mental issues. Col. Castro believes that it is mostly due to the separation from family and friends that the soldier’s are enduring and the lack of a social support network over time that they felt they once had.
Overall, suicide needs to be recognized as a leading cost of war and more research needs to be completed in order to save American lives. Soldiers may be fighting the enemy, but we as a country and psychologists and other mental health professionals need to get a handle on this situation in order to fight off the clearly deadly effects the war is having on our soldiers.
Woods, T. 2010. Suicide is the Least Acknowledged Costs of War. www.emaxhealth.com