June 11, 2016
Suicides tied to military service are always complicated. While lives always end for the same reason, loss of hope tomorrow will be any better, how they get to that point is a series of events complicated by human encounters.
Men and women decide to take the hardest, most demanding jobs. It isn't just about the low pay, endless hours, rules and regulations. It isn't just about the unknown they are willing to accept, such as being deployed, but all the hardships that come with the job. They are even willing to be killed, sacrificing their lives for someone else.
So how do they go from being like that to someone unable to live one more day?
We can keep finding the easy villain to blame and usually folks simply blame the VA. Yet if we actually think about all of this, it all begins with the Department of Defense itself. That is where they transition from civilian to servicemember and where they are supposed to transition from servicemember to veteran. Unfortunately, the DOD has not been interested in that part.
The new Army training is 10 weeks. For the Marines training is 12 weeks. The Air Force training is 8 weeks and so is the Navy training. While the DOD considers all physical conditions for recruits, they also consider mental health issues. In other words, they are supposed to be of "sound mind" when they join.
The DOD also started addressing prevention around 2006, which was supposed to be training their brains to become mentally tough and avoid PTSD. (Yep, like that would work since they were already mentally tough to being with.) While there is no evidence anyone can be trained to be resilient, but plenty of evidence this did not work, the military continued to push it. Suicides went up and so did suicides in the Veterans Community.
As a matter of fact, the newer veterans are committing suicide triple their peer rate. Veterans are double the civilian rate of suicides with the majority over the age of 50. So that clearly shows the DOD efforts in prevention failed. It also shows that after all these years, the VA has not done enough. None of the new charities with all their "awareness" talk have done enough.
With all that in mind, then consider the other thing the DOD has been reporting. They point to the fact that suicides are high for the non-deployed forces. The following is from the story of one of them. A young Marine who only wanted to be a Marine since the age of 6.
"Thompson, the VA's deputy director of suicide prevention, said recent studies found that more veterans who have never been deployed and have never seen combat die by suicide than those who have been deployed — a fact that surprises most people."
If all that training was not good enough for the non-deployed, how did they expect it to work on those with multiple deployments?
A mother mourns; the VA promises to do more to prevent veteran suicide
Springfield News Leader
June 10, 2016
When he was 6, police caught Kindall Johnson trying to cross Sunshine Street by himself. The Marine-obsessed child had discovered the recruitment office, then located in the Elfindale Center.
His mother, Kathy Davis, seemed to enjoy sharing that memory.
"One night I'm cooking dinner and there was a knock at the door. It was two police officers and Kindall was standing there smiling," she said. "He had bumper stickers, lanyards, pencils, pads of paper. And he goes, 'I found this really cool place and they give you all this free stuff.'"
Johnson stayed in touch with the recruiters and never wavered on his plan to enlist.
A strong runner, Johnson was invited to train with recruits who were getting ready to ship out. He was just 15 years old.
A few days after high school graduation, he was sent to boot camp.
Five years later he died of a gunshot wound. The Marine was not killed by enemy fire.
Shortly after attending a Missouri State University homecoming tailgate party on Oct. 17, 2015, Johnson drove to the police station on Chestnut Expressway. He sent several messages to friends and family, apologizing and saying goodbye.
He then called 911 before shooting himself twice.
read more here
Here is General Peter Chiarelli talking about suicides in February. "It is the highest we've seen in any single month since we've been keeping track."