I recently blogged about military suicides, a topic that visits the hero of True Surrender in a very personal way. A new article in Time magazine got me thinking more about this topic.
The statistics: If you assume suicide is happening only to soldiers with multiple deployments to a war zone, you’d be wrong. Nearly a third of suicides from 2005 to 2010 were among troops who had never deployed; 43% had deployed only once. Only 8.5% had 2-3 deployments.
More stats: enlisted members are more likely to kill themselves than officers, and 18-to-24 year olds more likely than older troops. Two-thirds do it by gunshot; 1 in 5 by hanging. Nearly 95% are male, a majority of them married.
More troops are coming home to encounter struggles like Aaron in True Surrender. Is there enough help for veterans?
Since 2009 the ranks of mental-health professionals have grown by 35% but there’s still a national shortage. Frequent moves mean soldiers change therapists often. National hotlines like the VA’s are overwhelmed (one soldier was on hold for 45 minutes before he shot himself). One example cited in the article shows a soldier seeking help six times over the course of three days, all in vain. Another example cites the Army’s finger-pointing to relationship/marriage issues without taking any responsibility for the strain military service takes on a relationship.
Perhaps more concerning: over 50% of the soldiers who committed suicide had seen a behavioral-health specialist before killing themselves, often receiving a diagnosis along the lines of “this individual is of no danger to himself or anyone else.”
It’s not that people don’t want to help… and there’s no one answer, just like there’s no one trigger for an individual to take that drastic step. Perhaps it’s a perfect storm: unresolved childhood issues, loss of comaraderie, relationship strain, illness amongst family members, economic or job woes.
Great fodder for fiction… not so great in real life.