Thursday, September 22, 2011

GUEST BLOGGER: Douglass Karr on Military Suicide Awareness Month

Though my blog mostly deals with writing and generally chronicles my adventures as a Navy wife, I am also deeply concerned about issues pertaining to military personnel and veterans. In light of that, I am handing my blog over to Mr. Douglas Karr as a guest blogger as he addresses some of those issues.

Military Suicide Awareness Month Brings Attention to Troubling Facts

In response to the high number of suicides in the military, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Ladies Auxiliary issued a press release setting aside the month of September as Military Suicide Awareness Month. To honor those who died as a result of suicide, to increase awareness, and to encourage prevention, the Ladies Auxiliary also introduced a new teardrop sticker. The auxiliary hopes the sticker will help to spread the word that there are websites and call centers available for those who need to reach out for assistance.

The high suicide rate is being discussed in other venues, as well. Dr. Craig Bryan is a psychologist who worked in Iraq with troops suffering from PTSD and head injuries. He now advises the Air Force and Department of Defense on combat-related stress and resiliency. In a 2010 interview with Terry Gross on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air,” he discussed the alarming rate of suicides among American troops. Statistics released in 2006 showed that the number of soldiers who killed themselves at home and abroad during the first half of that year was almost equal to the number killed in Afghanistan during the same period of time.

According to Dr. Bryan, many service members fear asking for any kind of medical help because of the stigma attached. Seeking
help for PTSD (Learn about the PTSD Coach mobile app), or depression is perceived as being even more detrimental to careers and reputations. As a result, soldiers frequently fail to get the care they need until they are seriously troubled or ill. For veterans, there is also the frustration of fighting long-term conditions, such as depression or rare aggressive diseases like mesothelioma cancer that is triggered from asbestos exposure, that stem from the battlefield.

Just as unsettling are statistics showing that three out of every four soldiers who commit suicide have not discussed their problems with professionals. Most of those who seek help want to complete their missions – leaving psychologists in the war zone with difficult decisions concerning the safety of individuals and troops as a whole.

In a step that could be a start in reducing the stigma of mental illness, President Obama announced in July that he will send condolence letters when soldiers abroad commit suicide. He also released a statement saying that "They didn't die because they are weak, and the fact that they didn't get the help they needed must change."

While this is good news, it does not address the soldiers who died in the United States or the veterans who die years after their military service.

The sources below were taken from the Ladies Auxiliary website and are services they wish to share:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
Veteran Combat Call Center (Talk to another combat veteran): 877-927-8387

1 comment:

  1. It would seem that some of the awareness should also be focused on changing the stigma attached to soldiers seeking help, not just as far as reputation, but also with companies/programs who employ or help to place the employment of soldiers. It's so ridiculous to think that someone would look negatively on someone who has sought help and found it. But I guess that's really what was said here. Great guest blog.