In an article from The Times Free Press, it’s stated that the Veterans Administration reports that about 1,000 veterans a month try to commit suicide and that acts of rage and violence are common in the group. Many victimized by that rage and violence are the wives, children and friends of those veterans.
The rising and frightening number of suicides and suicide attempts by U.S. combat veterans is a shameful legacy of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. For too long, the military has been reluctant to admit the existence of the problem, but recent events have finally forced the Pentagon to confront it. To its credit, the military seems to have done an about face on the issue.
While the newfound understanding is welcome, it’s painfully overdue, and much more needs to be done to provide mental health assistance to veterans and active-duty troops. Many veterans and active-duty personnel refuse to seek assistance when confronted by mental health issues. That unfortunate attitude is a legacy of past military practices.
For decades , the military encouraged an independence and self-sufficiency among its members that suggested that an injury to the body was a sacrifice for one’s country, but that an injury to the mind is somehow cowardly or a figment of an over-active imagination. The latter caused many members of the armed forces to avoid treatment.
They were afraid, with good reason, that admission of mental fatigue or illness, would result in ridicule, and that any mention in one’s military record of a mental health problem would end any chance for better assignments or promotion. The horrors of modern war, exacerbated by repeated tours of duty, finally forced the military to address those attitudes.
Help is on the way. In recent months, the Pentagon and civilian military authorities have repeatedly and publicy affirmed that war takes a toll inside the mind as well as on the body. A growing network of providers trained to help those suffering from PTSD and other war-related mental health problems is available.
The problem is convincing those in need of help to seek it. The long-standing military tradition of “toughing it out” on this sort of problem is hard to overcome. This sort of information highlights the importance of discussion of combat-related PTSD in the public arena. We are in the midst of a public health emergency, as those close to these soldiers can readily attest to.
Let’s keep this topic in the public eye. Each of us can make a difference by learning more on this issue, and talking openly about it. Old attitudes need to change to reflect the urgency of the situation. There are lives begging to be saved, right now.