Stopping Military Suicides
Like all of us, I’ve felt deeply heartbroken by recent media stories on the growing suicide rate among active-duty military personnel.
Suicides are now exceeding combat deaths in Afghanistan by 50 percent, according to the Associated Press.
There were 154 suicides in the first 155 days of 2012.
Stated another way: the number of U.S. soldiers who have died by their own hand is estimated to be greater than the number (6,460) who has died in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Newsweek.
There’s no question that 11 years of war in two operating theaters have taken a severe toll on America’s military.
So what can be done to stop these suicides?
To me, the answer boils down to this: We need to give these soldiers a reason to live.
Once they return home and become veterans, our communities must help them heal from what psychologists call “moral injuries,” which occurred after intensive stresses of combat. Through mental health counseling and other services, they need to develop more coping mechanisms.
Outside of mental healing, many veterans also need jobs, housing, and educational programs. They have to resolve financial and family stresses caused by being away from home for long periods of time.
But mostly, veterans need hope. They need to know that life now is tough, but it will get better.
It’s agencies like ours who help uplift struggling veterans at their lowest moments. We rescue them from falling into homelessness by giving them jobs and housing. We raise their self-confidence and get them back on track in life.
Sadly, military suicides are expected to keep rising, even as the U.S. has withdrawn from Iraq and stepped up efforts to provide mental health, drug and alcohol, and financial counseling services.
The only way to fight this epidemic is to encourage and support our veterans.
Giving them hope is our strongest weapon.
If you know a veteran contemplating suicide, get him or her help -- immediately. Have them contact Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, press 1.