USA TODAY Network
Gregg Zoroya and Tony Leys
"I MISSED THE BATTLEFIELD MORE AND MORE, AND THAT CONSUMED MY MIND."Chapter 1: 'Fog of another war'
TOURS OF DUTY IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN LEAVE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL SCARS.
On July 7, the day he saw psychiatrist Anthony Miller, agency officials in Washington released preliminary findings from a sweeping analysis of suicides among veterans. Scientists pored through 50 million death records from 1979 to 2014, counting every suicide. There were 7,403 in 2014 alone. They learned that, on average, 20 veterans commit suicide each day.
Donald Trump called the findings shocking. President Obama told a Disabled American Veterans convention in August that the suicide trend was a national tragedy. "We all have to do better," he said.
The VA analysis found that most suicides are among its largest constituency of veterans: those from the Vietnam era. But the highest rate of suicide was among younger veterans who served during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — Ketchum's generation. Veterans ages 30-39 committed suicide at rates four times the national average and those 18-29 at nearly six times that average.
Caitlin Thompson, a clinical psychologist who runs the VA's suicide prevention program, recalled the wrenching experience of losing three veterans to suicide. They were patients of hers and a team of health care workers.
"That's why I dedicated my life to veteran suicide, because I see those three young men over and over and over," she said. “We know there is hope … we know that people do get better.”
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were unique in physical and emotional demands. Because the wars lasted so long, large numbers of troops were required to serve multiple deployments that added up to years of cumulative combat duty. Ketchum did three tours.
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