Monday, January 28, 2013

Military suicides and the power of the point

Military suicides and the power of the point
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
January 28, 2013

There are too many people still asking why soldiers commit suicide. After all, the reasons have been known for over 40 years but when the military knows the answers, they ask a different question until they hear the answer they want to receive. Much like when facing the enemy, they want to know how many, where they are, what the weaknesses are and how well they are armed. That's how they defeat the enemy they can see but when it comes to the enemy they can't see, it is anyone's guess in the position of authority they listen to. Guess? Yes. Considering how long this has all been going on and the lack of progress in saving lives, they are still listening to the wrong people.

This came out in February of 2008 along with surveys and expert reviews of the Daddy of "Resiliency training" but the military pushed the program no matter how it failed those who serve.

The "Battlemind" program dealing with PTSD and TBI is simplistic almost to the point of being insulting - dealing with two very complex issues as a simple "cause and effect" scenario. The psych care afforded to active duty military personnel is at best "sketchy" and at worst, dangerous.

Again in 2008 there was this report but again, nothing substantial was done about it so we ended up with a record year of suicides in 2012.
'Battlemind' is the Soldier's inner strength to face fear and adversity with courage. Key components include: - Self confidence: taking calculated risks and handling challenges. - Mental toughness: overcoming obstacles or setbacks and maintaining positive thoughts during times of adversity and challenge.

Battlemind skills helped you survive in combat, but may cause you problems if not adapted when you get home.
• Multiple deployments and longer deployments are linked to more mental health and marital problems.
• Good NCO leadership is related to better Soldier/Marine mental health and adherence to good battlefield ethics.
• Good officer leadership results in Soldiers/Marines following ROE.
• Soldiers/Marines with mental health problems were more likely to mistreat non-combatants, highlighting the importance of getting them help early.
• Mental health services are most needed during the last six months of a year-long deployment since this is when Soldiers experience the most problems.

Now you have a bit more background on how we got where we are on addressing the enemy the DOD can't see.
'The storm' is coming
As the U.S. military suicide rate soared to record heights during 2012, the families of service members say they, too, are witnessing a silent wave of self-harm occurring within their civilian ranks: spouses, children, parents and siblings.

Some suicides and suicide attempts — like those that ravaged the Velez family — are spurred by combat losses.

Others may be triggered by exhaustion and despair: As some veterans return debilitated by anxiety, many spouses realize it's now up to them — and will be for decades — to hold the family together.
'Like an airborne disease:' Concern grows about military suicides spreading within families
By Bill Briggs
NBC News contributor
Before Army Spc. Andrew Velez left Texas for the final time, he asked his fragile sister to write him a promise – a vow he could carry with him to Afghanistan.

Monica Velez knew she owed him that much. In the horrid weeks after each had lost their beloved brother, Freddy Velez, to enemy fire in Iraq, Monica tried to end her life with pills and alcohol. Now, she put pen to paper: “I will not hurt myself. I will not do anything crazy. I know that Andrew loves me. I know that Freddy loved me.” Andrew folded her note and slipped it into his pocket.

“Don’t break your word to me,” he told her before heading back to war.

Seven months later, Andrew, 22, sat alone in an Army office at a base in Afghanistan. He put a gun to his head and committed suicide. Back in Texas, word reached Monica Velez who, once again, found herself in a dangerous place. Only now, she was alone. Days of alcohol and anti-depressants. Nights of dark thoughts: “It would just be better if I was gone.”
read more here

The Powerpoints can be, “for lack of a better term, overkill,” said Knowles, not part of the Connecticut Guard’s new outreach. “They jam it down your throat, and I don’t find it to be effective because you’re getting it SO much.”

Connecticut National Guard Feels Pain of Military Suicides Directly
Litchfield County Times
By Joe Amarante
January 27, 2013

When he heard of his good friend’s death by suicide recently, National Guard Capt. Kyle Knowles said he was shocked at first but not very surprised.

“He was just a tense kind of guy. I never would have thought he would do something that drastic, but he fit the bill.”

Knowles, a central Connecticut resident, husband and father who previously deployed to Iraq with the Massachusetts National Guard, now works on active duty in the ROTC center at Western New England University in Springfield. He spoke last week, a day before attending Massachusetts funeral services for his friend, who had PTSD and served at Iraq’s Abu Graib prison during one of two deployments.

“I don’t think he’d ever say, ‘Hey, I want to kill myself,’ but ... certainly somebody should have grabbed him and said, ‘Dude, are you just a stressed-out guy or do you need to really talk to somebody?’” Knowles said of the man he served with about 18 months ago.

Military suicides hit a record high last year at about one a day nationally amid a chorus of concern and a growing list of prevention efforts. Connecticut officials are feeling the urgency but also some confidence in their approach.

Col. John Whitford of the Connecticut National Guard said his units have had two and three deployments to the war zones. For each, they are first sent to a behavioral health specialist. But you can only prepare so much for mental and physical trauma, and sometimes it’s just white noise for a soldier headed into action.
read more here
Now for all the people trying to say that "oh well suicides in the general population have gone up too, there is this piece of information that once and for all should cut the claim down to the size it should be.
Suicide is a national issue as well as one for the Army,” he said.

During World War II, suicide rates went down compared with what they were during peacetime, and physicians believed they understood mental health problems in the military, Dr. Ursano said.

Some 300,000 service members developed PTSD or major depression after tours in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In more recent times, suicide rates have increased during war. Rates for civilian and military suicides are now about the same when matched along age and gender demographics, but before the Iraq and Afghanistan wars started, the military suicide rate was about half of the rate for the general population.

War creates particular stress for servicemen and women. They are in high-tempo operation environments — where everything moves faster — at the same time that they are separated from family and significant others. Physicians who study military suicides often find depression or anxiety before such a death, but there are other variables.

The power of the point was reached a very long time ago. Showing soldiers a Power Point presentation not only bores them out of their minds, it is a waste of time, and as it turns out, deadly to their lives. If the military continues to push the programs that have not worked, the only thing they succeed at doing is insuring more soldiers take matters into their own hands. These folks are a lot different than the rest of the population.

Consider this. How can they be willing to survive during combat, doing whatever it takes to stay alive along with their buddies, yet back home, can't find any reason to stay alive another day?