Monday, August 20, 2012
ARMY SUICIDES JULY 2012
Army Suicides: July Deaths Set A Tragic
Katie Drummond, Contributor
iwrite about things that raise eyebrows. Or singe them right off. 8/16/2012
Army Suicides: July Deaths Set A Tragic New Record
(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
More bad news for a military already under suicide siege: The Army today announced that their July suicide rate was the highest since 2009, when the service first started publishing monthly data.
A total of 38 suicides, 26 among active-duty soldiers and another 12 among National Guard or Reserve members, have either been confirmed or are suspected, according to an Army report. The tally exceeds the Army’s previous single-month suicide record, in July of 2011, by five additional lives lost.
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Overall, the military’s suicide rates are looking increasingly grim. So far this year, suicides in the Army far exceed rates reported in previous years. Other services aren’t doing much better, with suicide rates among both Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel already outpacing those reported in 2011.
These new statistics also reveal a troubling trend: Older soldiers are now more likely to take their own lives than younger GIs. Analysts suspect that as troops draw-down from combat zones overseas, more veteran soldiers — many of whom have been deploying consistently since the dawn of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — are struggling to reintegrate into civilian life.
“Issues like minor depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances…begin to surface after a service member has been home for more than a year, and start to reintegrate with their family,” Bruce Shahbaz, a medical analyst with the Army’s Suicide Prevention Task Force told Time’s Battleland blog. “I liken it to a pot that’s on simmer….”
There’s no question that reintegration — after more than a decade of war — will continue to pose a significant challenge for soldiers and veterans. In addition to finding work (no small challenge) and managing the stresses of marriage and parenthood, some returning soldiers are also coping with a host of health problems — including post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and addiction — that can potentially increase the risk of suicide.
To be sure, the military has made a concerted effort to better understand ailments like PTSD in recent years — they’ve funded everything from cutting-edge neurological research to far-out treatment methods. The military and the VA have also spent millions trying to enhance suicide prevention programs, with the VA earlier this year announcing plans to hire an additional 1,600 mental-health clinicians.
But for every step forward, there’s been at least one step back: Military and VA officials continue to be bogged down with allegations of inadequate mental-health care, excessive wait times and flawed diagnoses. In one particularly damning instance, clinicians at the Madigan Army Medical Center were earlier this year accused of reversing at least 300 PTSD diagnoses to cut costs.
Unfortunately, the military won’t be able to remedy the crisis of personnel suicides overnight. And, by many accounts, institutional problems still threaten to exacerbate the problem. I’m struck by one recent example: Earlier this week, I interviewed Sean Hamilton-Knapp, a 44-year-old veteran who has twice tried to take his own life. After two years of VA-funded counseling that have kept him from the brink, Hamilton-Knapp is being cut off.
“According to them, now that I’m stable and on-track, I don’t need the help anymore,” he told me. “The government is trying to save money, and I get that. But they sent someone somewhere, and that person came back broken. It’ll take more than two years to fix that.”