Sunday, December 30, 2012

Veterans twice as likely to commit suicide as civilians

Veterans twice as likely to commit suicide as civilians
Billings Gazette
7 hours ago
By Cindy Uken

They return from war traumatized.

They have survived the grinding stress of being in constant danger. They have seen the worst. Some have injuries that will never heal.

To stay alive, they have learned to trust no one and to never show weakness.

It’s something they don’t want to talk about.

And it’s killing them.

Veterans commit suicide at a rate that is twice the national average. In fact, the annual military death toll from suicides has for several years exceeded the number killed on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

For some returning vets, their injuries are obvious. Many others struggle with unseen wounds like post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

But, it’s not just combat vets. In 2010, at least 54 percent of U.S. military suicides had no history of deployment and 89 percent had no combat experience, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s one-year-old Suicide Prevention Office.

Even for healthy veterans, returning home isn’t always a relief. Many miss the structure of military life and the companionship of their comrades. They find themselves competing for jobs with younger workers who have more up-to-date training. And some return to relationships that have withered or even broken in their absence.

It can all be too much.

In Montana, where nearly 10 percent of the population has served in the military, at least 460 veterans committed suicide between 2002 and 2011, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

“We go to war to protect ourselves and to give our kids, our grandkids and ourselves the lifestyle we have every day,” said Kellie Lafave, an RN and suicide prevention coordinator for VA Montana since 2005. “Sometimes we don’t want to think about the consequences of what we ask people to do in order to make that happen.”

The rate of suicides among veterans in Montana reflects the state’s high rate.
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