May 29, 2016
Sunday morning before Memorial Day got me thinking about all the things no one seems to have much time to talk about. Why do veterans commit suicide?
After all, considering the numbers have not gone down, it seems like a logical question to ask. You'd think that finding the answer after all these years and billions failing to keep veterans alive, it would have been figured out by now, but no one seems to want to talk about that.
How does a man or women decide life matters so much they are willing to die to save someone else turn into someone not able to find a single reason to live one more day?
When they asked for help during combat, they knew it was the right thing to do to save lives. So why is it so hard for them to know it is the right thing to do because their life is on the line because of it?
They grieve. They get confused between witnessing evil and thinking they have become it. They question why they survived when others did not. Then when things fall apart, they wonder what all of it was for, what they are worth now that their "brothers" are not counting on them as they did in combat. What was all of it for?
They lose hope that tomorrow will be any better than the last day was.
After reading about a veteran surviving combat and attempted suicide this morning, it got me thinking about all the conversations I've had over the years when veterans were twisting things around, forgetting how much good they did
and what they did it for.
They see such horrible things. Things that civilians see in a movie but their movie is played over and over again streaming from their memories. They can hear the sounds, smell the pungent aroma of death and destruction and feel everything reawakened within them.
One veteran really stands out in my mind right now. He kept asking where God was when kids were being killed. He saw so many horrible things in combat that he blamed God for all of it. "A loving God would not just sit back and let all that happen."
Actually God didn't. The veteran was there to help along side of his brothers because they cared. Evil people do not grieve for someone else. Evil people do not risk their lives for the sake of someone else.
The courage they had was fed by love and compassion. That came from the same soul that gave them the courage to do more than just care.
The bad memories become so powerful they block out all the good that happened and all the moments when compassion surrounded the veteran. He forget when his buddy shoved him to the ground so he would not be hit by a bullet. He forgot when he got a letter from his girlfriend saying she found someone else and his unit comforted him. Of the times when he and others risked their lives to save the wounded and grieved for those who perished.
For all the talk about raising awareness, it is reprehensible to repeat a number as if their lives didn't matter enough to do more than read a headline. To ignore what they need to know has been deadlier than combat itself.
State after state put the number of committing suicide is double the civilian rate. The Center for Disease Control said there were over 42,773 Americans committing suicide in 2014. That means there are actually over 26,000 veterans committed suicide. Really disturbing when you acknowledge the fact veterans, unlike civilians, put their own lives on the line, were prepared to endure any hardship, did everything possible to survive, then come home and take their own lives.
Even more disturbing is the other fact no one talks about. The vast majority of those veterans were over the age of 50. They are the largest population of veterans in this country and the largest percentage of suicides.
That study found US Suicide Rate Increases 24 Percent Over 15 Years.
Suicide rates for middle-aged women between the ages of 45 to 64 increased greatly, rising from 6 suicides per 100,000 women in 1999 to 9.8 per 100,000 -- a 63 percent increase. For men, suicide rates were highest for those over 75, with approximately 38 suicides reported for every 100,000 men in 2014, according to the report.
However, middle-aged men between the ages of 45 to 64 saw the greatest rise in suicide rates among males. That age group saw a 43 percent increase, from 20.8 suicides per 100,000 men in 1999 to 29.7 suicides per 100,000 men in 2014, according to the study.
So how does that happen? While they found reason to live during combat, it was usually about those they were with and not about themselves. The birth of the pain begins but they do not allow themselves to feel it. They push all of it to the back of their mind so they can do their jobs. Others depend on them. It is not until they return home and everyone is safe, they feel all of it.
Some get really busy working on their transition to living with civilians again while no longer being one of them. The title of veteran stays with them the rest of their lives. They go to college, get jobs, start families and for a while, they are able to ignore the pain they just don't have time to feel.
If they have mild PTSD, that is easy to do for a while but life happens and other bad stuff happens. PTSD gets worse. It gets worse into middle age when life changes yet again. Kids are on their own, retirement changes their lives, health issues, loss of family members and friends, all major life changes that are traumatic even for civilians carry more seriousness for a veteran especially when he/she has lost the ability to ignore what they carried home with them.
Curing PTSD is impossible. Healing PTSD is possible with the right information and the knowledge they need to have to know why they have PTSD and they can stop blaming themselves for it. Believing it is any type of mental illness or because they are weak is the only reality they know because no one told them it hit them because they have such a strong emotional core, they felt it all more.
PTSD is not a wound caused by what is within but what entered into it. It is caused by traumatic experiences and not what is considered part of normal human life. Combat is not normal. No traumatic experience is. Human reaction to surviving it is normal. No one is ever the same as they were the second before but just as trauma changed them, they can change again and, most of the time, end up being a better person with the proper help to see things differently. It was all based on a courageous love they were willing to die for.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.