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Military & Suicide: What Can Be Done?

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Are you a veteran, active duty service member, or military family member in need of help?
If so, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (Press 1).

military life

Members of the military give their lives to protect our country. However, in some situations this group must also be protected. Unfortunately, over the last few years, statistics on the number of servicemen and women who commit suicide have increased. Their traumatic experiences can sometimes lead to PTSD, depression, and even, suicidal tendencies. How can the risk of suicide be detected in military personnel and prevented?

Approximately 22 military members take their own lives every day. During their time in the military, veterans faced a variety of difficult situations. When they finally arrive home, the transition is often more difficult than expected. Unfortunately, this can lead to depression, anxiety, and, ultimately, suicidal thoughts or behaviors.


Military Life

During a veteran’s time in the military, they are exposed to a number of different factors that can cause damage to their mental health and wellbeing. These include:

  • Death or injury of a fellow veteran or civilian
  • Injury or illnesses
  • Combat environment (including explosions and constant fear)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Sexual assault (particularly amongst female veterans)
  • Extreme physical exertion
  • Overall drastic lifestyle transition

These factors can impact the mental health of a military member, possibly causing:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Loneliness
  • Anger

The Transition to Civilian Life

When a veteran returns to civilian life, the unfortunate reality is that they end up facing many difficulties. These difficulties are mainly reflected through disposition, in which the veteran may feel a lack of purpose, disorientation, and insecurity. These things are what can ultimately lead to feelings of depression, inclinations towards addiction, and suicidal thoughts.

The Impact of Military Experiences on Mental Health

Military experiences that lead to negative emotional states can cause a number of diagnosable mental health issues, including:

Sadly, very few veterans seek help for these conditions because:

  • They may not recognize the symptoms
  • They may be in denial
  • They do not want to jeopardize promotions or deployment opportunities
  • They may not think that treatment will help
  • They may not want to stay in treatment for an undetermined period of time
  • They may not want to come off as being “weak” for admitting their issues or accepting help

How Friends and Family Can Help a Suicidal Veteran

Suicide is preventable, and friends and family can assist a veteran in getting the help they need by trying the following:

  1. Express your concern about their emotional state
  2. Offer to connect them with the proper resources (including a doctor and mental health professional)
  3. Create a safe environment for them
  4. Be patient in finding the right time to address the situation
  5. Learn about their war experiences
  6. Educate yourself on their disorder(s)
  7. Remain calm and understanding, even during periods when they are in a negative emotional state

Addressing Veterans & Suicide Locally, Statewide and Federally

Recently, President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act in an effort to address the increase in military suicides. This law will help veterans gain access to doctors and mental health professional through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). New initiatives will also include:

  • Increased resources for the VA’s crisis hotline
  • Increased numbers of mental health providers
  • Improved research efforts
  • Distribution of grants to suicide prevention programs

To prevent and treat suicidal veterans, officials could also:

  • Increase overall funding for the mental health of military members
  • Increase outreach initiatives
  • Create an early detection system of suicidal thoughts or actions

If you or a loved are experiencing suicidal thoughts or if you simply need someone to talk to about your worries, anxiety, or depression, contact the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service.

Steve Johnson has always been dedicated to promoting health and wellness in all aspects of life. Studying in the medical field has shown him how important it is for reputable health-related facts, figures, tips, and other guidance to be readily available to the public. He created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow student to act as a resource for people’s overall health inquiries and as an accurate and extensive source of health information. When he isn’t hard at work in his studies, Steve enjoys playing tennis and listening to his vintage record collection.

Image via Pixabay by skeeze

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All too often, we see a newspaper headline about yet another mass shooting, or a news anchor leads off a broadcast with a story about yet another suicide, and we numbly ask — almost rhetorically — "Why didn’t someone see this coming? Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this?