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US soldier suicides exceeds combat deaths
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:19 pm    Post subject: US soldier suicides exceeds combat deaths Reply with quote

Suicides are surging among US troops
http://news.yahoo.com/ap-impact-suicides-surging-among-us-troops-204148055.html
By ROBERT BURNS | Associated Press – 8 hrs ago

Quote:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Suicides are surging among America's troops, averaging nearly one a day this year — the fastest pace in the nation's decade of war. The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan — about 50 percent more — according to Pentagon statistics obtained by The Associated Press. The numbers reflect a military burdened with wartime demands from Iraq and Afghanistan that have taken a greater toll than foreseen a decade ago. The military also is struggling with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other misbehavior.

Because suicides had leveled off in 2010 and 2011, this year's upswing has caught some officials by surprise.

The reasons for the increase are not fully understood. Among explanations, studies have pointed to combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescription medications and personal financial problems. Army data suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of committing suicide, although a substantial proportion of Army suicides are committed by soldiers who never deployed.

The unpopular war in Afghanistan is winding down with the last combat troops scheduled to leave at the end of 2014. But this year has seen record numbers of soldiers being killed by Afghan troops, and there also have been several scandals involving U.S. troop misconduct.
The 2012 active-duty suicide total of 154 through June 3 compares to 130 in the same period last year, an 18 percent increase. And it's more than the 136.2 suicides that the Pentagon had projected for this period based on the trend from 2001-2011. This year's January-May total is up 25 percent from two years ago, and it is 16 percent ahead of the pace for 2009, which ended with the highest yearly total thus far.

Suicide totals have exceeded U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan in earlier periods, including for the full years 2008 and 2009. The suicide pattern varies over the course of a year, but in each of the past five years the trend through May was a reliable predictor for the full year, according to a chart based on figures provided by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner. The numbers are rising among the 1.4 million active-duty military personnel despite years of effort to encourage troops to seek help with mental health problems. Many in the military believe that going for help is seen as a sign of weakness and thus a potential threat to advancement.
Kim Ruocco, widow of Marine Maj. John Ruocco, a helicopter pilot who hanged himself in 2005 between Iraq deployments, said he was unable to bring himself to go for help.

"He was so afraid of how people would view him once he went for help," she said in an interview at her home in suburban Boston. "He thought that people would think he was weak, that people would think he was just trying to get out of redeploying or trying to get out of service, or that he just couldn't hack it - when, in reality, he was sick. He had suffered injury in combat and he had also suffered from depression and let it go untreated for years. And because of that, he's dead today." Ruocco is currently director of suicide prevention programs for the military support organization Tragedy Assistance Programs, or TAPS. She joined the group after her husband's suicide, and she organized its first program focused on support for families of suicide victims.

Jackie Garrick, head of a newly established Defense Suicide Prevention Office at the Pentagon, said in an interview Thursday that the suicide numbers this year are troubling. "We are very concerned at this point that we are seeing a high number of suicides at a point in time where we were expecting to see a lower number of suicides," she said, adding that the weak U.S. economy may be confounding preventive efforts even as the pace of military deployments eases. Garrick said experts are still struggling to understand suicidal behavior. "What makes one person become suicidal and another not is truly an unknown," she said.

Dr. Stephen N. Xenakis, a retired Army brigadier general and a practicing psychiatrist, said the suicides reflect the level of tension as the U.S. eases out of Afghanistan though violence continues. "It's a sign in general of the stress the Army has been under over the 10 years of war," he said in an interview. "We've seen before that these signs show up even more dramatically when the fighting seems to go down and the Army is returning to garrison."

But Xenakis said he worries that many senior military officers do not grasp the nature of the suicide problem.

A glaring example of that became public when a senior Army general recently told soldiers considering suicide to "act like an adult. Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, commander of the 1st Armored Division, last month retracted — but did not apologize for — a statement in his Army blog in January. He had written, "I have now come to the conclusion that suicide is an absolutely selfish act." He also wrote, "''I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess. Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us." He did also counsel soldiers to seek help.

His remarks drew a public rebuke from the Army, which has the highest number of suicides and called his assertions "clearly wrong." Last week the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, said he disagrees with Pittard "in the strongest possible terms." The military services have set up confidential telephone hotlines, placed more mental health specialists on the battlefield, added training in stress management, invested more in research on mental health risk and taken other measures.

The Marines established a counseling service dubbed "DStress line," a toll-free number that troubled Marines can call anonymously. They also can use a Marine website to chat online anonymously with a counselor. The Marines arguably have had the most success recently in lowering their suicide numbers, which are up slightly this year but are roughly in line with levels of the past four years. The Army's numbers also are up slightly. The Air Force has seen a spike, to 32 through June 3 compared to 23 at the same point last year. The Navy is slightly above its 10-year trend line but down a bit from 2011. As part of its prevention strategy, the Navy has published a list of "truths" about suicide. "Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane," it says. "They might be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing."

In a report published in January the Army said the true impact of its prevention programs is unknown. "What is known is that all Army populations ... are under increased stress after a decade of war," it said, adding that if not for prevention efforts the Army's suicide totals might have been as much as four times as high.

Marine Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently issued a video message to all military members in which he noted that suicides "are sadly on the rise." "From private to general, we shoulder an obligation to look and listen for signs and we stand ready to intervene and assist our follow service member or battle buddy in time of need," Battaglia said.
The suicide numbers began surging in 2006. They soared in 2009 and then leveled off before climbing again this year. The statistics include only active-duty troops, not veterans who returned to civilian life after fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nor does the Pentagon's tally include non-mobilized National Guard or Reserve members.

The renewed surge in suicides has caught the attention of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Last month he sent an internal memo to the Pentagon's top civilian and military leaders in which he called suicide "one of the most complex and urgent problems" facing the Defense Department, according to a copy provided to the AP. Panetta touched on one of the most sensitive aspects of the problem: the stigma associated seeking help for mental distress. This is particularly acute in the military. "We must continue to fight to eliminate the stigma from those with post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues," Panetta wrote, adding that commanders "cannot tolerate any actions that belittle, haze, humiliate or ostracize any individual, especially those who require or are responsibly seeking professional services."


I remember getting into a heated debate with my father telling him that Iraq/Afghanistan is my generation's Vietnam.

Also for perspective:

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Pint



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm unsure if I'd call it our generation's Vietnam. The support on the home front is much greater than that of after the Vietnam War. Either way, these numbers are extremely disturbing. The worst part is they don't even cover veterans that have already left the military and other NATO troops. The transition from training to war back to life at home is a hard one. Even if a soldier does not see much combat and comes home without a scratch on them or their buddies, they have spent the last year or so ramped up for a potential fight. There are also the soldiers who live with survivor's guilt because they could not save their friends or they lived while their friends did not. These soldiers have often seen severely injured or dead soldiers, locals, or enemy forces. All of this coupled with Traumatic Brain Injuries, multiple deployments, and people at home not understanding why their soldier has changed leads to PTSD.

Many veterans do not know how to healthily heal their mental wounds and do not look for help, but rather turn to alcohol, drugs, and withdraw themselves from people who do not understand. They do not get outside help due to the stigma attached to it: "They are not strong enough to handle their stress." The military is looking for many ways to help their service members, but until the stigma is removed suicides will continue to raise. Service members are trained to be strong for so long, and now the military must find a way that is not power point to let them know it is ok to seek help.

These are the things that helped me when I came home. My husband understanding that I would need some space and time before talking about deployment, my cat (she seems to notice when I am stressed and comes to lay with me), and eventually yoga. AND I did not know that these things were helping me until later when my soldiers and husband noticed a change for the positive in my demeanor. Now, I am looking into starting a nonprofit for active duty and veterans to do yoga before, during and after a deployment. They do not necessarily need all of the spiritual talk of yoga, but the meditation it brings during practice. If the military were to bring something like this to their forces, it may bypass the stigma of going to mental health. I would include it in the physical training plan a few times a month and offer it daily when soldiers are deployed.
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I say our generations Vietnam because of the blatant moral ambiguity around the conflict. I mean it's always there, but when compared to conflicts like WWI, WWII, or even Korea, there's a lot less of a sense of the reasons behind the fight being morally justifiable. Korea wasn't as bad namely due to the then recently perceived Communist threat giving people justification for their actions (however it also gave us McCarthyism). I'm not just talking about soldiers but their families as well. In Vietnam our purpose was more vague and ambiguous (not to mention the draft issues) but I don't think that part of it has changed with the conflicts in the mideast.

I have issues with the levels of honesty and forthrightness in our nation's military recruiting standards. I'm not saying all, but many in the recruiter position (i understand the whole recruiter/MP/embassy duty system) seem to behave like little more than salesman meeting quotas. Or at least this is how it was explained to me by veteran military personnel.
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh and good to see you're doing good! Hope your idea with yoga actually takes off.
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Pint



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks so much! I'm currently doing a research paper on the subject and getting together with other yoga teachers to brainstorm the program Smile Other people have started similar programs throughout the US and I am in contact with them as well.

This type of yoga would be good for anyone with PTSD to include soldiers, rape victims, abuse victims, etc.
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Lasairfiona



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There as also the stigma of mental illness, temporary or no, and it being a lack of strength and will (both of which a soldier is kinda known for, stereotypically) rather than something neutral.

Pint - I _love_ the yoga idea. It is exercise and flow that is probably better than even martial arts because it takes out the aggression aspect of exercise. Tai Chi would also be good I would think.

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Darkman



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 11:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lasairfiona wrote:
There as also the stigma of mental illness, temporary or no, and it being a lack of strength and will (both of which a soldier is kinda known for, stereotypically) rather than something neutral.


I've got a buddy in the wounded warriors and he'll tell you (and anyone who'll listen incidentally) that this is a huge problem. Not just from the soldiers themselves but from the people who are supposed to be helping them. One thing he has told me a lot about is that many of the people who are in charge of his recovery are reservists who have never been on a deployment. They're career military who, from what I've heard, buy into the hype of marines being big bad emotionless killing machines. They've had a huge problem with suicides and my friend says pretty much none of them came as a surprise. People who openly talk about not being able to deal with things, getting told to man up and deal with it.
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Lasairfiona



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

America as a whole is bad about this (and honestly I can't think of a country that is good about it but I may be underinformed). The military, which is the epitome of AMERICA FUCK YEAH, will obviously magnify this issue. The blog post by Pittard (which is an absolutely hysterical name) is just a public example of the mentality.

Mental illness, even PTSD which is downright understandable with an outside cause and everything, is just considered weakness and soldiers can't be weak, ever. Even if being weak sometimes means you are human. Obviously the solution is to have all conflicts fought by robot.

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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it's sad that it takes this recent trend for people to change their views. I had an old high school friend who hanged himself a few years back. He never went to the mideast, but his sister (whom I also know) says she thinks he had suffered form undiagnosed, untreated depression.
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Martian Kyo



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pint wrote:
I'm unsure if I'd call it our generation's Vietnam. The support on the home front is much greater than that of after the Vietnam War.

That's just because of vast advances made in the science of media manipulation.
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Dogen



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The military has a ton of research going into suicide prevention, from Martin Seligman's STARS program to develop a therapy to help soldiers be more resilient to PTSD* to the Navy's collaboration with UCLA to train families how to help soldiers reintegrate. Unfortunately, research going on now should have been done in the 70's. We waited for an epidemic to start before putting appropriate resources into finding a cure. One thing we know is that the reintegration period is crucial, which is why so many groups focus on it. But for deployed soldiers, it's necessary for commanders to be vigilant for signs of depression and anxiety. That's been tough, not just because of the machismo (which is huge), but because they're not therapists and soldiers will hide their symptoms. I have so many thoughts on this.


* PTSD is interesting in that only about a 30-50% of people exposed to any particular tragedy develop it, leading many to assume there's more than just trauma involved (hence the idea of resiliency training).
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Sam



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The military had two particular items which were morally abysmal that have received substantial attention and give me hope that it will end an era of very deserved and vehement criticism of it as an institution: rape culture, and ignorance and neglect of mental disorder from combat and/or service exposure.

That said, it's not there yet; not even remotely. It just has shown a willingness to move forward from an intransigent host of institutional issues that produced a steady stream of godawful shit that was inexcusable and deserved much more relentless social and institutional prosecution.
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Sam



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Martian Kyo wrote:
Pint wrote:
I'm unsure if I'd call it our generation's Vietnam. The support on the home front is much greater than that of after the Vietnam War.

That's just because of vast advances made in the science of media manipulation.


No, not really. The environment and attitude towards troops returning from the present wars is quite exceedingly different from the mess that vietnam vets had to deal with, and neither iraq nor afghanistan had to sit and fester so severely enough as to reach complete collapse. So far.
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Dogen



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 6:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was just reading an article about the military diagnosing female victims of sexual assault with personality disorders (a "pre-existing condition") in order to discharge them and not have to get them therapy. I don't know how widespread that is, I didn't see it on many news sites, but it's not beyond imagining.
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ShadowCell



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sam wrote:
Martian Kyo wrote:
Pint wrote:
I'm unsure if I'd call it our generation's Vietnam. The support on the home front is much greater than that of after the Vietnam War.

That's just because of vast advances made in the science of media manipulation.


No, not really. The environment and attitude towards troops returning from the present wars is quite exceedingly different from the mess that vietnam vets had to deal with, and neither iraq nor afghanistan had to sit and fester so severely enough as to reach complete collapse. So far.


besides which, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are not in the public consciousness the same way Vietnam was. during Vietnam, if you had a son somewhere around age 18, he could potentially get sent to fight. today, the direct impact of the war has been largely restricted to those in the military or those connected to people in the military.
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