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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – Editorial: Study Sounds Alarm On #Military #Suicides

four soldiers carrying rifles near helicopter under blue sky
Photo by Somchai Kongkamsri on Pexels.com


For a nation that claims to revere and honor its men and #women in uniform, the #UnitedStates hasn’t done nearly enough to address the ongoing epidemic of #suicide by active-duty members of the military and our #veterans.

A recent study by Brown University puts this into clear and unflinching focus: Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the nation has lost 7,057 members of the armed forces in combat operations related to the war on terror.

In that same period, researchers estimate 30,177 active-duty personnel and #veterans have taken their own lives, a number four times greater than those killed in action. #Veterans account for 22,261 of those deaths.

It’s important to note that these are estimates since data reporting about #suicide is complicated. But the Brown University report cites a number of contributing factors. Including “high exposure to trauma, #stress, military culture and training, continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life.” It also notes the prevalence of “traumatic brain injuries, the war’s protracted length, advances in medical treatment that keep service members in the military longer, and the #American public’s disinterest in the post-9/11 wars.”

“High #suicide rates mark the failure of the U.S. government and U.S. society to manage the #mentalhealth costs of our current conflicts,” the researchers write.

#Suicide has always been a silent epidemic among our warriors, but one that has grown in numbers and profile in recent years. We ask these #men and #women to experience awful things in a combat theater, and to risk their lives for the nation’s defense. All are profoundly changed by living through the violence of a firefight or to lose friends and colleagues in war.

Never in the nation’s history has a war gone on as long as the sprawling global war on terror, for which the #UnitedStates has deployed troops to multiple continents to fight in dozens of countries. And the people who fight those battles, as part of an all-volunteer force, are increasingly drawn from a smaller percentage of the population.

What that means is that those who serve in our armed forces are increasingly isolated from their fellow citizens, and that the public may not have a personal connection to the harrowing dangers of combat or the terrible toll that decades of war can inflict.

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

The U.S. #DepartmentofVeteransAffairs should play a leading role in prevention and awareness. It issued a blueprint for tackling the crisis in 2018, the National Strategy for Preventing #Veteran #Suicide, but has seen the #suicide rate increase since its introduction, which could reflect a problem in approach or implementation.

So it is up to us to make sure the needs of our fighters are properly tended to, that they receive the care promised to them and that their needs are the nation’s priorities.

For military officials, that means addressing the #stigma surrounding #mentalhealth and encouraging service members to seek help when its needed. It means stronger partnerships with local and state governments to coordinate care and treatment. And for the public it means being aware of crisis signs and advocating for more robust investment in #mentalhealthservices.

If we are willing to send people into harm’s way, we must be ready to provide them the care and attention needed when they come home. Nothing less than that will do.

four soldiers carrying rifles near helicopter under blue sky
Photo by Somchai Kongkamsri on Pexels.com

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