Saturday, February 6, 2016

Veteran Suicide Families Left Out of Battle At Home

This is one of those morning when I had to walk away from the computer soon after turning it on. After over 30 years there are too many times when I wonder why I even bother to make a difference when nothing changes.

The answer is simple. I know what trying did for my own family and my own veteran. We've been together since 1982. What you're going to read in the following report from San Diego Union Tribune proved to me that after all these years what worked has been forgotten about and what failed has been repeated.

There are many stories in this report but Erin Murzyn's story of not knowing what was going on with her husband shows for all the talk about what the VA is doing, which does work in a lot of cases, few reporters have covered what they should have been doing all along.

These reports are hard to get through but nothing will change if folks keep seeking out what is easy for them. Like the talk of 22 a day committing suicide is an easy number to remember even though it is a false number, none of this should be easy on any of us until we make it easier for them to survive being back home after war.
San Diego Union Tribune
By Jeanette Steele
Feb. 5, 2016
Murzyn retired in April 2013, after 20 years that included serving as a drill instructor and two back-to-back deployments to Iraq at the height of the war.

Just before retiring, the gregarious Marine from Minnesota quietly sought out a civilian psychologist. The diagnosis in the first session: PTSD.

Before that, he was afraid to seek care in military medicine because of the stigma attached, said Murzyn’s widow, Erin. He never told her. She only discovered it later, after reading his medical records.
Erin Murzyn said she thinks health care privacy rules shut out family members to a dangerous degree.

No one at the VA told her the details of husband’s conditions or when he stopped seeking therapy.

“If I had known, I would have made sure he was making his appointments. I would have gone to some of his appointments with him,” his wife said.

“Very regularly, I get this feeling of, ‘Thank God he didn’t decide that Nathan (their son) and I needed to go with him.’ I think that’s a very unfair position to put family members in.”

It might have helped if Russell Murzyn had a smoother path from military health care to the VA, his widow said. Why couldn’t his first mental and physical exams at the VA have been prescheduled, she asks?

“Had this process been different than it is today, I truly believe my husband would have been better prepared and more aware of his mental fragility,” Erin Murzyn said. “Maybe he would have been in treatment way before the feelings of identity crisis, worthlessness and anxiety overcame him.”
read more of his story here
The San Diego Union-Tribune
By Jeanette Steele
Feb. 5, 2016
They said the VA, and other health institutions, don’t do enough to include spouses and parents when there are signs a troubled veteran is giving up on treatment or is in despair.
At least 27 veterans under age 45 died by suicide in San Diego County between 2014 and the first half of 2015.

For them, there was no retirement, no second career, no time spent watching their children grow.

The majority suffered from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in a combat zone since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Their experience defies academic research, which says troops who deploy are not more likely to die by suicide.

San Diego provides a rare window on post-9/11 veterans and the issue of of suicide, perhaps one not available anywhere else in the nation.

With nearly 28,000 post-9/11 veterans, the county is the nation’s largest hub of Iraq and Afghanistan war-era veterans.

This special project relies on death information from the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office, one of the few — if not the only one in the United States — to regularly track veteran and military status in its data. Having the names of these men and women led to family members and friends who shared gripping, tragic and complex stories of the veterans’ lives.

These interviews revealed dissatisfaction with care provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, both in San Diego and other regions.
read more here

Families have always been on the front lines of this homeland war zone but few have been armed with the weapons they need to save the lives of those they love.

Families like ours are more like the militia during the Revolutionary War. We armed ourselves and trained ourselves how to fight for all we hold dear.

We had to lose battles before we figured out how to win others. We had to decide what was important enough to fight for. Adapt to what wasn't worth fighting over, improvise our lives since none of it is normal in the civilian families and then, after finding what was normal for us, we overcame.

If you are new to all this seek out older families to help you learn what it took decades for us to figure out. We'll help you get to where we are the easy way.

If you work for the VA, fight to have family support groups pick up again in your area. Make sure they understand the basics of PTSD as much as they find someone to talk to. I know a lot of you and I know you want to change this system but you have rules to follow. If you can't do it within the VA then help out a support group outside the VA. You care enough to do this job for their sake but these families can't wait for Congress to figure out what we learned over the last 40 years.

The answers have already been found so why are we still looking at the questions?

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