It is no secret that the leading cause of death among active duty troops deployed to the Middle East is not combat or accidents, or IEDs — it’s themselves. The Pentagon’s own statistics show that this is a crisis but it is being ignored.
The most recent data shows that a veteran kills himself or herself in the United States about every hour and 26 minutes. That is 6,100 veterans a year.
When we look at these numbers over the past ten years, the results are shocking: more veterans have killed themselves in the last decade than service members who died in Vietnam.
If we look at attempted suicides, that number skyrockets once more to 19,000 attempts, of which 6,100 result in ending their own lives.
An alarming study published this week zoomed in on post 9/11 wars and found that since 9/11, four times as many U.S. service members and veterans have died by suicide than have been killed in combat.
According to the data, compiled by the Costs of War Project at Brown University, an estimated 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans who have served in the military since 9/11 have died by suicide, compared with 7,057 killed in post 9/11 military operations.
“The trend is deeply alarming,” the report says. “The increasing rates of suicide for both veterans and active duty personnel are outpacing those of the general population, marking a significant shift.”
The report finds that these high suicide rates are caused by multiple factors, including risks inherent to fighting in any war such as high exposure to trauma, stress, military culture and training, continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life. But the study finds that there are factors unique to the post-9/11 era, including a huge increase in exposure to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), an attendant rise in traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and modern medical advances that have allowed service members to survive these and other physical traumas and return to the frontlines in multiple deployments. The combination of multiple traumatic exposures, chronic pain, and lasting physical wounds is linked to suicidal behaviors.
Additionally, the sheer length of the war has kept service members in the fight longer, providing more opportunities for traumatic exposure, and fueling a growing disapproval and ignorance among the public that has only enhanced veterans’ difficulty finding belonging and self-worth as they reintegrate in society.
The report’s author, Thomas “Ben” Suitt III told reporters this week that the public remains largely ignorant of the problem, saying that some Americans don’t know that men and women are still serving in post 9/11 conflicts.
“The public needs to care. They really, really should,” he said.
This problem is extremely concerning, but the establishment’s only answer is antidepressants and helplines.
No one is looking at why veterans are killing themselves at a rate nearly double the national average. They are simply trying to put a band-aid on the problem which will never work.
War is the plight of mankind. It is perpetually waged by cowards too afraid to send themselves or their own children into harm’s way, but who do not hesitate to send the poor or ‘patriotic.’
When the state is done with its pawns of empire, it disposes of them like spent military gear. They then become unable to get the proper care they need for illness and injury related to their service. If they try to self-medicate to cope with the subsequent PTSD from being forced to brutally occupy a foreign country, these veterans have their children taken, face life in prison, or worse.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that nearly 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Another 140,000 are currently in jail, many of them for victimless crimes like drug possession for trying to treat their illness without pharmaceuticals.
As if the numbers aren’t bad enough, veterans are often the target of unjust attention from law enforcement. On multiple occasions, the Department of Homeland Security has referred to veterans as potential terrorists and noted that they pose a threat to national security.
Lip service of ‘supporting the troops’ is proving to be the worst possible thing for them.
If you really want to “support the troops” you’ll stop supporting wars of aggression in distant lands in which Americans are forced to kill people who pose no threat to the US.
If you really “support the troops” you’ll stop blindly standing up for your government whose proven track record shows that they do everything but support the troops.