More US military veterans have died by suicide since 9 11 than died in combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other arena of military combat. Official figures say that about 25 veterans a day take their lives although, because of inaccurate reporting, that number may be closer to 40 a day. Some of us military veterans have had close experience with these numbers as one of former comrades in arms have committed suicide. While being aware of the high rate of veteran suicide makes us aware of the problem of having a friend take their own life makes the problem much more personal. It brings up the issue of how can you prevent a veteran suicide?
Where Does Prevention of Veteran Suicide Start?
Many times a vet who has a friend who took their own life feels guilty because they “should have known” or “should have done something.” But the truth is that we all have our own lives, concerns, problems and commonly need to portion out our attention to concerns relating to our own families, businesses, or own lives. At No Fallen Heroes we have dedicated ourselves to helping reduce the incidence of veteran suicide on the way to preventing suicide by all of our military heroes. We address this issue on a personal level and on a broader scope.
How Do You Know That a Vet Is in Trouble?
A lot of research has been done regarding veteran suicide and suicide in general. This includes identifying risk factors for suicide by veterans. One factor that goes with a risk of suicide is social isolation. Not everyone is good at finding friends, simply visiting and distracting themselves from their personal demons. This is often less of an issue in active service where life is more regimented and flows in a routine. One of the reasons for social isolation in vets is that the stress of leaving the service often leads to breakups of marriages and other supportive relationships. Disappointment from trouble finding work compounds the issue. One of the times of highest incidence of suicide in vets is shortly after military discharge when the veteran has trouble reintegrating into civilian society, often in involved in substance abuse, and may be fighting PTSD and/or depression with any meaningful support. Simply knowing this will help a person know when to look in on a vet, make a point of doing things with them, and insist that they get professional assistance for any problems they need help with.
Risk Factors for Veteran Suicide
Known risk factors for suicide include the following:
- Social isolation and poor psychosocial support
- Chronic physical problems
- Substance abuse
- Availability of firearms
- Traumatic brain syndrome
- Recent military discharge
- Old age
- Male gender
A typical vet at high risk is a middle aged male, recently divorced, drinking to treat their depression, with long-standing depression or PTSD or both. When a person knows of such an individual they should not expect themselves to be experts in counseling or professionals in their knowledge of what specifically to do. But they can make a point to contacting that individual, talking with them, checking in routinely and making sure, to the extent that they are able, that the person at risk follows through with visits to appropriate professionals, takes their medications, and is keeping in touch with other friends or former military comrades.
What Needs to Be Done about Veteran Suicide on a Larger Scale?
The more people that are aware of the problem of high rates of veteran suicide the more likely it is that individual vets will get help. By supporting organizations like No Fallen Heroes one can help get the word out and keep attention focused on the issue at large and individual in need in particular. In recent years progress has been made in finding successful treatments for risk factors for suicide such as PTSD, depression, and substance abuse. Psychedelic medicines are under investigation and turn out to be much more effective than standard antidepressants as adjunctive therapy along with coaching or psychotherapy for PTSD, depression, and substance abuse. An important thing that a person can do is to contact their political representatives at both the state and federal level so that funding for research is continued and organizations like the FDA keep their eye on the ball in developing effective new therapies and getting them to the folks that need them.