Last Thursday a paper was published online in Current Psychiatric Reports that hopes to shed light on why an astonishing 22 veterans commit suicide each day. The study sought to explain record suicides among soldiers during and after their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The comprehensive effort finds an indirect link between deployment, combat and self-destructive urges.
The two scientists that conducted the study argue that high rates of depression or PTSD stemming from the combat experience can lead to suicidal ideations. From these conditions stems social isolation and a sense of burdening others. From there it continues downhill and there is a loss of personal relationships. Throw in a familiarity with firearms and you have an increased likelihood for suicides.
Numbers At An All-Time High
Among active-duty soldiers in the Army, suicides reached 185 in 2012, which was an historic high. That rate is roughly 30 deaths per 100,000. This is triple the rate of what it was in the Army in 2004, and double the rate among civilians.
Although among active members the number decreased by 19% in 2013, the number among Army National Guard and reservists was at an all0time high of 151 last year.
No Clear Explanation
There is no specific reason the scientists can point to with absolute certainty to explain the rise in military suicides. They did acknowledge that just ahead of the increased suicides there was a surge in mental health issues of service members. Hospitalizations for depression doubled, increased 5x for substance and 10-fold for PTSD.
It seems that most people within the survey struggled during a transition period. This could be from transitioning out of combat, out of active duty or from just getting older. The study says that “the majority of veterans found purpose and meaning in the military service. It can be a struggle to find that same sense of purpose as a civilian, which ultimately leads to feelings of despair.” It calls upon the Pentagon and the VA to do a better job of assisting troubled veterans through crucial periods of transition.
Suicide thoughts are not something to mess around with. If you or someone you know is struggling with transitioning back to civilian life, or even if the transition is not the issue, please seek help or encourage them to do the same.