In the ten years of direct US involvement in the Vietnam War, 58,220 Americans died from war-related causes. 7,057 service members died in the first twenty years of the 21st century. By comparison, 65,000 (or more) veterans have committed suicide since just 2010 according to White House fact sheet. We will never know the exact number of veteran suicides because many do not actively take their lives but end up dying from neglect. When there seems to be no reason to continue suffering from PTSD, depression, traumatic brain injury or any of the whole host of effects of combat, basically giving up and not seeking treatment often causes the same end result as actively taking one’s life.
Veteran Suicide vs Civilian Suicide
About 6,000 kill themselves each year. Official figures go up and down a bit but about 25 a day or just over one vet per hour committing suicide is a fact of American life. Suicide is not limited to veterans but the rate per capita of veteran suicide is about 50% higher than in adults who never served in the military. The suicide rate for female veterans is about half that of males. Because women are often better at networking, finding and keeping friends than their male counterparts that could be part of the reason for the difference.
Isolation and Veteran Suicide
Military service can be tough. But when a person is on active duty, they are part of a larger group that has a larger and greater purpose. Life is organized and everyone has a part. That “organizing factor” often goes missing when a person leaves military service. For injured vets, the loss of comradeship, belonging to a greater whole can be a greater loss than for those enter civilian life physically and mental intact. Social connectedness is an important factor in post-military life and its lack in terms of isolation is related to higher incidences of loneliness, depression, suicidal thoughts, and despair. Loneliness not only leads to thoughts of ending it all but also relates to the veteran not seeking help, following through when help is available, and rejecting help when it is offered.
Risk of Dying Goes Up After Leaving Military Service
One would think that your risk of dying would be greater when you are routinely in firefights, out on dangerous patrols, flying combat missions over enemy territory and the like instead of when you are back home in Pittsburgh and watch the Steelers on the TV. But the figures for the time that the US was involved directly in Afghanistan and Iraq show a contrary picture. While seven thousand active duty personnel died in the first two decades of this century more than sixty thousand veterans of military service chose to end it all by committing suicide in the decade after 2010. When one joins any of the branches of service, they know full well that there are risks associated with the life they are signing up for. Not even in the fine print does it say that the risk of dying by your own hand will exceed your likelihood of dying in the service of your country while on active duty.
Damaged Thinking and Veteran Suicide
Depression and PTSD are found in the veteran population. They are the results of the stresses of military life. For some the effects are temporary and go away when they go back home. For others PTSD and depression last a lifetime. In many cases this has to do with how the brain is “rewired” by military experiences. At No Fallen Heroes we have dedicated ourselves to supporting veterans and especially to eliminating veteran suicide. One of the approaches that we have found to show extraordinary promise is the use of psychedelic medicines. When given in appropriate amounts and under professional supervision these medicines have the ability to break the chains of damaged thinking that are seen in post-traumatic stress disorder. They only require a few doses as opposed to a lifetime of taking standard antidepressants. Not only is the veteran relieved of the constant need to revisit the trauma of their service years but they tend to find more joy in life and put their isolation aside in favor or a fuller and healthier life. Follow us on these pages to learn more about how veteran suicide can be helped.