The loss of any single life before its natural end is sad. It is regrettable when any person chooses to take their own life. But when thousands of veterans every year commit suicide is it a continuing disaster. How serious is the issue of veteran suicide? Veterans have often had trouble adjusting to civilian life. Depression, PTSD, traumatic brain syndrome are all common in vets and all contribute to the incidence of suicide. Suicide has been more common in veterans during the era of the War on Terror than in previous eras.
More Active Service Personnel Commit Suicide Than Die in Combat
During the most active years of US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq more active duty personnel died of suicide than from combat. During the same years the incidence of suicide among military veterans went as high as more than seven thousand a year and continues in the six thousand range to the present. Male veterans are more than fifty percent more likely to commit suicide than mean of the same age who did not serve, For women the comparison is worse as female veterans are more than five times as likely to end their lives than women with the military service history.
Which Military Veterans Are Most Likely to Commit Suicide?
In 2012, which was the worst year for veteran suicide in the last two decades, fifty-two percent of suicides were US Army veterans. This is not just because the Army has more members than the Air Force or Navy because the Army has about forty-two percent of active duty personnel but had fifty-two percent of suicides among its veterans. Thirty-one percent of suicides among veterans are aged forty-nine or less. The forty-nine of less age group constitutes about a fourth of all veterans. The risk of suicide is slightly higher in Army vets and higher in those who service has spanned the years of the War on Terror.
What Factors Predispose to a Veteran Taking Their Own Life?
Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain syndrome are all more common in veterans than in those with no military service. And these three conditions all increase the risk of suicidal thinking, planning, and committing suicide. Other issues with veterans include difficulty getting back into civilian life. Vets may have trouble getting a job. Return to civilian life is all-too-often associated with difficulties in marriages and long term relationships. As such, veterans often are socially and psychologically isolated at a time when the presence and help of close friends and family can be especially helpful in making the necessary adjustments.
Help With Veteran Suicide
Despite greater public attention to the issue of veteran suicide in recent years the incidence has not gone down to any significant degree. In order to reduce and eliminate veteran suicide it is necessary to attack the root causes. In the cases of depression and PTSD there is hope with the recent designation of two psychedelic medicines by the FDA as breakthrough therapies. A basic problem shared by many veterans is that in a way they never really leave the military and the traumatic events to which they were exposed in combat and other situations. They keep reliving these traumas as flashbacks. When they try to think about these events and sort out their feelings the “wiring” in their brains in the amygdala or fear center raises their anxiety and make meaningful processing impossible. The beauty of MDMA and psilocybin (psychedelic medicines) is that they alleviate the anxiety associated with accessing past events. They are able to work with a professional therapist to work through their feelings. This processing helps the veteran separate the fears and anxieties that were appropriate in the past from the present in which there is no real physical danger. The other plus to these drugs is that they can be given in just a dose or two as opposed to taking standard antidepressants for years and years. Studies to this point have demonstrated success lasting for as long as five years with just one round of therapy with one dose of these medicines and “talk therapy” with a qualified professional. At No Fallen Heroes we are especially excited about the potential of this approach for reducing and eliminating veteran suicide.