Veteran Suicides

Christopher Frizzelle processes last week’s NYT story about military suicides:

More than 2,700 American soldiers have killed themselves since 2001. That’s not counting veterans and it’s not counting “National Guard and reserve troops who were not on active duty when they committed suicide”…. But make no mistake: Suicides among veterans have risen too. The number of veterans who kill themselves is an unbelievable 22 per day, according to the Department of Vetern Affairs. As for the active-duty soldiers, a “dauntingly complex web of factors” figures into the data about why they commit suicide. While “troops with multiple concussions were significantly more likely to report having suicidal thoughts” than others, “deployment and combat by themselves cannot explain the spiking suicide rates.”

He asked his brother, a former Army officer, for insight as to why more than 80 percent of those who committed suicide had never been in combat. The response:

Because regardless of what they’re called or what “stage” we’re in, we’re still at war. Being in a war zone for 9+ months is unbelievably stressful even if you’re not in combat. Not to mention, you work 15 hours a day and get 0 days off, which is tough even in a regular job for that amount of time. You have no social life, and people are social beings. You just become numb mentally and emotionally. I was for months after I came back and my deployment wasn’t that bad compared to some. One of my guys killed himself a week after we got back. He seemed fine.

(Photo: Mike and Kim Bowman, of Forreston, Illinois, whisper behind a photo of their son, Specialist Tim Bowman, U.S. Army, Illinois National Guard, Bravo Troop, 106th Calvary, as they prepare to testify during the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on ‘Stopping Suicides: Mental Health Challenges Within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA),’ on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007. Their son shot himself after returning form duty in Iraq. By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)