Sunday, February 10, 2013

Record Numbers of US Military and Veteran Suicides

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Stephen Lendman, Contributor
Activist Post

Headlines like this should shock: Suicides Outpace War Deaths. Surge in Military Suicides. Nearly Two Dozen Veterans Commit Suicide Daily.

These reports and similar ones reveal imperialism's dark side. War takes its toll. Civilians suffer most. So do many combatants and veterans after returning home.

Most people don't know. Little gets reported. Why do active duty personnel and vets take their own lives?

Unbearable emotional pain consumes them. Daily trauma builds. So does intolerable stress. Relief is desperately sought. Suicide is chosen. It's a last option. Others were exhausted. Preventable warning signs aren't heeded. They include depression, withdrawal, lethargy, loss of interest in usual activities, appetite, weight, sleep and other behavioral changes, recurring suicidal thoughts, and feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Daily stress is bad enough. Combat exacerbates it. It's intolerable for many. The little known human cost of war raises disturbing questions. America consumes its own.

Epidemic post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) levels affect hundreds of thousands of combat forces and vets.

The VA estimates over 30% of Vietnam vets, around 10% of Gulf War forces, and up to 20% of America's Afghanistan and Iraq troops.

VA and DOD officials consistently understate problems. Independent reports reveal more. Some say nearly half of Afghan and Iraq vets have emotional and/or physical combat injuries.

In May 2012, AP said America's vets "are filing for disability benefits at (a) historic rate." They're the "most medically, mentally troubled generation in US history."

War's toll is one of the most underreported stories. Hundreds of thousands of combat vets won't ever be the same again.

They come home sick. They stay that way. They're traumatized. They're unable to cope. Emotional damage done goes largely unrecognized. It's an unseen wound. Many needing help don't get it.

The emotional ordeal is overwhelming. It's terrifying. War vets are gravely affected. PTSD causes emotional numbness. Left untreated, it worsens. Horrifying flashbacks are commonplace.

Images, sounds, smells and subconscious feelings trigger them. Emotions well up inside. They surface self-destructively. It can happen any time. Some victims recover in months. For others it's much longer or never.

War is a destructive slippery slope. It drives victims to emotional hell. They're sure what afflicts them. PTSD prevents normal functioning.

Victims say they're too tired. They can't think. They can't function normally. Their brains are overwhelmed.

They lash out at others for no reason. They harm those they love. They can't explain why. Diagnosing PTSD is tricky. Often it's not done. Victims needing help don't get it. Others get too little. There's no cure.

Measurable physical/biological symptoms aren't apparent. Those mentioned above are commonplace. Others include headaches, unexplained pain, inability to cope, severe anxiety, rage, and survivor guilt for those who lost buddies.

Toughing it out depends on developing coping mechanisms. It's not easy without competent professional help. For many it involves long-term struggle. Too often it's too much to bear.

Broken human psyches aren't easily repaired. Shocking suicide numbers explain best. More on that below.

David Grossman analyzed the art of killing. His book titled On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society explained an inherent aversion. Doing so causes mental anguish and harm. For many it's too much to bear.

Combatants have to be taught to kill. Many do it reluctantly. Others abstain or try to. Either way takes a toll. Killing "comes with a price, and societies must learn that their soldiers will have to spend the rest of their lives living with what they have done," said Grossman.

Jobs involved in harming others cut both ways. War is hell. Who knows better than combat vets. Understated VA data say plenty. Its 2012 Suicide Data Report said about 22 vets commit suicide daily.

Double the number wouldn't surprise. Only 16 states indicate cause of veterans' deaths. VA uses three-year old data. Many deaths aren't called suicide. They slip under the radar unnoticed. Many war zone-related suicides are misreported.

Those that are outnumber combat deaths. Officials numbers reflect nearly one a day. DOD and VA officials shun publicity. Getting it harms recruiting. Unwary kids are mislead. They're unaware what awaits them.

Many suicide victims are age 50 or older. Combat-related trauma is long-lasting. According to a Center for a New American Security (CNAS) suicide report, veterans commit suicide every 80 minutes.

Study authors Margaret Harrell and Nancy Berglass said:
America is losing its battle against suicide by veterans and service members. And as more troops return from deployment, the risk will only grow.
Many vets return home feeling helpless. Marine Corps vet Jason Christiansen watched his life unravel. "At one point, I was sitting there with a gun in my mouth," he said. A friend urged him to seek help.

The Veterans Crisis Line gets hundreds of thousands of calls. CNAS said from 2005 - 2010, "approximately one service member committed suicide every 36 hours." Too little to late reflects DOD/VA policy.

In FY 2009, 1,868 vets made suicide attempts. Many who don't succeed try again. Multiple war theater deployments increase the suicide incidence.

PTSD-affected service members are redeployed. Many cope with drugs and/or alcohol. Others sent on combat missions try to stay out of harm's way. In war zones, it's not easy.

Socio-economic conditions at home compound mental trauma. Unemployment, homelessness, and related issues affect thousands. Numbers compound annually. For many it's too much to bear.

VA data through September 2012 reported 26,531 homeless vets. Double the number is more likely. Others risk losing their homes, rely on temporary housing, or get inadequate federal vouchers for rent.

Around 1.5 million vets risk homelessness. Numbers like this should shock. They go largely unreported. They, and others like it, reflect a time bomb of trouble. It's largely unaddressed. A small fraction of those needing help get it. Others get too little. America's vets are hung out to dry. Funding prioritizes warmaking, not healing.

Since 2000, nearly a million vets were diagnosed with one or more mental health problems. The VA admits its data understate. Its own suicide hotline averages 10,000 calls a month.

More than a million vets await unaddressed disability claims. Many are PTSD-related. Months or years pass without help. They're last in line to get. Most never do. No wonder suicides mount.

Despair holds out only for so long. Left unaddressed, it often succumbs. America treats its own with disdain.

In January, the Supreme Court turned a blind eye. It declined hearing a lawsuit. It challenging abusive VA treatment. The constitutional rights of vets with mental health disabilities were denied.

Tens of thousands of troubled vets are at risk. Expect suicides to mount. National epidemic levels are swept under the rug. Waging war comes first. Obama has lots more in mind. It's the American way.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at His new book is titled How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War. Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


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Anonymous said...

Anyone who joins the army is out of his mind.

This article like so many others that try to whitewash this issue avoids the main point.

GUILT. Guilt eats away at people over time. The guilt of committing war crimes, killing children or standing by while your fellow soldiers do it is too much for many to bear. But any open discussion of how the US military requires this kind of behavior or how every combat soldier commits or covers up war verbotten.
Hypocrisy does not help the troops, it drives them insane.

Anonymous said...

The way osama-bin-bush planned it .....

Hide Behind said...

Whete does it say that all the suicides are of combat vets?
I do not mean in just this authors posting for it indeed has more and larger holes than a wheel or block of swiss cheese but even in military statistics.
The military on one hand awards combat pay to all within a war time theaters borders. But in other and many cases of othets there are they place exemptions of time or activity.
The military hss studies being done and the results are for military eyes only.
In order to study each case would take millions of data points from thousands of possabilitys and so they lump as many as they can into one big data pool that has strict mean lines and set that line line wherever they want after results not before and add + or- and then throw out what they call aberatoons that don't fit within the syudies guidelines.
Some may remember in Gulf one the huge controversy over vaccinations and ingestion of drugs they thought our soldiers needed.
A study in how to statisticly white wash the illnesses caused by pharmaceutical contracte companies. Studies soon for military eyes only.
The military denies civilian studies, as it denies their soldiers to speak to any oneut of military cammand, of the percentage of suicide by men who come into the zones of where radio waves and microwaves are used to confuse whole city blocks where Iraqi people live.
This. Study was began when military operatives of the equipment told their commanders of ill effects to both mind and body of their own.
Off course military command upon a top secret plan had to deny their own men that it was from the experiment but some men knew it was a lie and sneaked out the facts too some independent journalist. They reported massive headaches and even wild homicidal attacks and delusional interlude when suicide caused by massive episodes of depression.EEven when the hors shrsnk men still reported days lost and confusion to do ordinary day to day chores.
What are the effecys caused by sleep deprivation and having to use massive amounts of pills and super drinks or even illegal chemicals so men could complete their missions.
The massive amounts of steroid use by especially top notch soldiers is well known in gyms around every military base. And ranks right up there with most drugs of choice.
What exactly is fortified in common meals and MRE's do.
The figures of military men for all branches of services combat and non is very high when it comes yo % who claim and get certified as being injured while on duty some units ss high as 30%
Learning how to get your pension level of injury increasedevrry year or two is widely known and practiced and has been that way ever since 1970s and beginning used as a way to give raises at publics expense where none were realy factual.
Can't blame just military for that ploy for it is used incteasing ly more be all forms of government employees so that they with retirment and disability can in many many cases make more retired than when they worked.
Any ways there could be damn lot more reasons out there of why so many suicides but it does not help military objectives nut in one way ss they get funding on how to make a military mans mind only function as a tron and not a man.

Anonymous said...

This is sad...yet the government hires shrinks like Muslim Maj Hasan (working with Al Queda) to treat returning soldiers. They are given experimental drugs and shots. Many are homeless, untrained and unready for civilian life. Our government is treating our very best as expendable. Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

NOT the very best. That is a BS television marketing slogan to hook the next round of dupes.

The very best go to university, get jobs or do anything other than sign up to kill defenseless people half way round the world for some American companies profits. These are the very foolish, the very angry and the very misled. This is sad, sad because this has been going on since the first world war........soldiers always get treated like dirt. It is sad that young kids still join up..........due to BS marketing slogans that fill their heads with unrealistic dreams. Stop repeating that crap!

Anonymous said...

Suicide is a normal thing when it comes to guilt and sorrow. IF this was a clear black and white war, good vs sure soldiers would have an easier type coping. but alas, nothing is transparent and honest when it comes to our foreign affairs.

to quote the great dictator when he addressed the soldiers.

"Dont give yourself to brutes"

JCII said...

When the "suicide" surge began it was accompanied by reports of evidence of sloppily covered up murders, not suicides.
I still believe it is mossad/cia hit teams, not "suicides".

Vatic Master said...

They are not suicided, they are being murdered so they can't help us or turn on their superiors when the hammer comes down by our domestic enemies in the future. We just confirmed that because of Kyles murder. An ex marine sniper who was excellent at sniping. You bet they needed to get rid of him.

I bet we would find those suicided had been wearing the oathkeepers patch.

Anonymous said...

JCII, wow, I just said that, but neglected to mention who. I was trying hard to be nice. I bet anything Mossad is in the field with them and they are vetting our soldiers right now as we speak. Remember, they have been using them as test subjects for psychotropic drugs for the drug companies..... can anyone say "fascism?" Our gov works for the various international corps and bankers. What was the name of that book written by a military officer called "Economic Hitmen". Well we just sent in troops to 35 african countries to do just that. Steal their natural resources like in Mali, where the Queen wants their Uranium mines and their gold. We work for Britain. I thought we got free of them?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, about the Muslim shrinks.... First of all, he was not a working shrink, he had made it all the way up the chain of command and was working on policy and other military protocols. What happened at Ft. Hood was not about him at all. He did nothing. It was about enlisted men who did not want to go back, they wanted to stay home and try to salvage what lives they had, but Kissingers edict to his minions in the officer corp was "soldiers are fodder for our wars". And that is exactly how they were being treated and losing families jobs, etc. They blamed it on the Muslim so the idiots who do no research would buy into the propoganda so the Christians would hate and fight the muslims and kill each other off in a world war so the corp s could profit from it.

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