The rate of military suicides is more than double the number recorded in the first year of the Iraq War, and last year’s total is the highest since the Pentagon began tracking the trend in 2001. The number of suicides in the past 10 years exceeds the number of combat deaths suffered by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan.
The problem is complicated by anxiety over the prospect of being forced out of uniform as defense budgets are cut.
“There are some people that can go through what they go through in combat, and come back and use that productively in life.”
Kathy Molitar is one of three Suicide Prevention Program managers at the Houston VA Hospital near the medical center.
“They got a lot of anxiety, or they got a very short trigger as far as their anger. They’re engaging in risky activity. Increasing drug or alcohol abuse are very big signs. Withdrawing from family or friends is another big sign.”
GIs long stressed by deployments, are coming home to a shrinking military and a slow economy. They often struggle with finances and relationships, and wounds that include traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Molitar says some do come in looking for help.
“But others, no they don’t. They’re avoiding the VA because of part of what PTSD brings upon them. We need families out there, looking for signs and symptoms of suicidal thinking, and then asking a few more questions. And if they need help, that family needs to help them come in to get help.”
She says there are more returning service members to the Houston area than any area of the country. You can find more information at www.veteranscrisisline.net, or by calling the Veterans Crisis line at 800 273-8255.