Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Suicide Crisis in the Army

USA Today reports:

A record number of soldiers — 109 — have killed themselves this year, according to Army statistics showing confirmed or suspected suicides.

The deaths occur as soldiers serve longer combat deployments and the Army spends $100 million on support programs.

"Soldiers, families and equipment are stretched and stressed," Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, told Congress last month.

The Army provided suicide statistics to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Her staff shared them with USA TODAY.

A separate article at USA Today's On Deadline reports on the mental health crisis among veterans:
More than 100,000 of the 750,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have sought treatment for mental problems from the Department of Veterans Affairs, an official said during a hearing on suicides.

Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's deputy chief of patient care, told members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee that the department's suicide hotline has received more than 6,000 calls from veterans or their families since it was established in July.

Here is what the father of one of those veterans -- who killed himself -- told the panel:
Our son was just one of thousands of veterans that this country has lost to suicide. I see every day the pain and grief that our family and extended family goes through in trying to deal with this loss. Every one of those at risk veterans also has a family that will suffer if that soldier finds the only way to take the battlefield pain away is by taking his or her own life. Their ravished and broken spirits are then passed on to their families as they try to justify what has happened. I now suffer from the same mental illnesses that claimed my son’s life, PTSD, from the images and sounds of finding him and hearing his life fade away, and depression from a loss that I would not wish on anyone.

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