I recently read a disturbing article in the Baltimore Sun that quoted a Veterans Administration report that there is an average of 22 suicides a day by veterans. 22 a day. Where are we as a nation if we cannot help and support those who risk their lives to protect us?
The website, Veterans and PTSD shares these statistics from a major study done by the RAND Corporation (full pdf of study), the Congressional Research Service, the Veterans Administration, and the US Surgeon General.[i]
- at least 20% of the over 2.3 million American veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and/or Depression.
- 50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment
- out of the half that seek treatment, only half of them get “minimally adequate” treatment (RAND study)
- 19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- 7% of veterans have both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury
- rates of post-traumatic stress are greater for these wars than prior conflicts
- more active duty personnel die by their own hand than combat in 2012 (New York Times)
Where suicide is often seen as a sensitive and private family matter, it can come to the forefront like in yesterday’s shooting in Fort Hood. As the nation turned on the news, it felt like déjà vu. As we learn more of the attack, I expect we will be learning of many distinctions that separate it from its earlier horrific assault. Where the first attack was claimed as an act of terrorism, this incident will be raising the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The shooter served 4 months in Iraq (non-combat) in 2011 and was undergoing diagnostic procedures for post-traumatic stress disorder, suffered from depression and had self reported a traumatic brain injury. He killed 3 people and wounded 16 before taking his own life. Perhaps we won’t ever know if his military service impacted his decision to harm others and eventually himself, but it should at least ask the question, if it did, how can we help the next veteran?
If you are a veteran or know of a veteran who needs help, please contact the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255
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