Saturday, September 16, 2017

Facts, those pesky little details on veterans committing suicide

If I Could Walk Away, I Wouldn't
Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
September 16, 2017

There is so much you have to learn about PTSD, but you won't. Because what is popular, like repeating numbers, keeps putting roadblocks between you and the knowledge that could save your life.
"If I could, I'd protect you from the sadness in your eyes, give you courage in a world of compromise, yes I would If I could. I would teach you all the things I've never learned, and I'd help you cross the bridges that I've burned. Yes I would, if I could. I would try to shield your innocence from time, but the part of life I gave you isn't mine, I've watched you grow so I could let you go if I could. I would help you make it through the hungry years, but I know that I can never cry your tears, but I would if I could."
That is one of songs I am most touched by. It is almost as I have been living in a time machine, repeatedly going back over the last 35 years of my life. Going back to the time when I had to read clinical books at the library with a dictionary to understand what combat did to the man I loved. I've been saying "if I could" as I read all the reports on veterans and suffering from where they've been.

I have a unique seat at the table for this one. To understand my husband and learn enough to help him, it made me a quasi-expert, but living with it made it personal to me as a spouse. We're celebrating wedding anniversary number 33 this month. This year marks my 35th year of trying to get to a point where I could walk away from doing this work so I could just enjoy being "normal" again. 

I never thought I'd still be doing this after all these years. I really thought I'd be able to stop when the internet connected the world and things once trapped in whispers were being shared while searching for answers. Soon, I discovered that within those keystrokes, there was a lot of lies, misdirection, and avoidance of facts.

Facts, those pesky little details that make all the difference in anything worth researching should matter, but folks will fall for whatever they are told. They walk away as if that is all they need to know.

That is what happened when the Department of Veterans Affairs released their report on veterans committing suicide. The headline was "22 a day" but the pesky fact was that number was an average from just 21 states. Reporters avoided the part where that was mentioned, as much as they avoided the fact that we have 50 states, so that number came from less than half the country.

What made it even worse, was they avoided mentioning that within that same report, the largest group of veterans were 65% of the suicides, and they were over the age of 50. You know, the veterans no one thought was worth mentioning.

When the VA put out the follow-up study and had the number at "20 a day" no one thought it was worth mentioning the fact that while the CDC knew how many suicides occurred every year, they did not know how many were veterans, and neither did the VA itself. Yes, one more pesky little fact, is that many states did not have "military service" on their Death Certificates.

States like California, with over 2 million veterans, announced this month they will now start tracking their veterans committing suicide. The San Diego Union Tribune added this in their report, " At least 27 vets under age 45 died by suicide in San Diego County over 18 months." Illinois did not have the ability to track veteran suicides either. In May this was reported by the Chicago Tribune.
Cullerton passed Senate Bill 1693 to allow deceased veterans with military service to include their veteran status, branch of military and the period of time served in the military on their death certificate.
Illinois has over 700,000 veterans, and now you have an idea of how many veterans were not counted. If military service was not on their Death Certificates, then the CDC did not know they were veterans while they did know the manner of death was suicide. The CDC Suicide Report states that there were 42,826 suicides and was the 10th leading cause of deaths. 383,000 more survived and made it to the emergency rooms.

One more pesky little fact is no one is talking about the attempted suicides within the veteran's community, any more than they are mentioning the other fact, that there are higher number of suicides within the military itself. Now you have a better idea of what was known by some thinking this topic was worthy of searching for facts and putting it all together.

All that may give you a better idea of why I find all this "awareness" repulsive. If not then this should really clue you in.

This was when there was very little being done to prevent suicides other than what the VA and established veterans groups were doing. 1999 population of veterans in the US was 26.4 million but in 2015 there were only 21,369,602. And that number was after over a decade of folks talking about suicides, using the word "prevention" along with "awareness" yet, as the VA reports showed, less veterans were alive to learn how they could stay that way.

The last report from the VA put the number at "20 a day" but if you do not see it has gotten worse, then stop pretending to care. I bet since you're reading this, you are thinking "Oh My God!" it is worse. Then again, you'd also probably be aware of the other pesky facts, like all the money spent by Congress as they claim to care and repeat the same stuff that did not work going all the way back to 2007. (yep a decade ago) Or the fact that the Veterans Crisis Line has been taking calls since the same year and has this piece of pesky fact.
"Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered nearly 2.8 million calls and initiated the dispatch of emergency services to callers in crisis nearly 74,000 times. The Veterans Crisis Line anonymous online chat service, added in 2009, has engaged in more than 332,000 chats. In November 2011, the Veterans Crisis Line introduced a text-messaging service to provide another way for Veterans to connect with confidential, round-the-clock support, and since then has responded to more than 67,000 texts."
If that is not proof enough you need to stop supporting all these awareness stunts covered by reporters who do not even care enough to ask what the end goal is, then pay a visit to your local newspaper and the obituary section. Look for the word "veteran" and see where all this absence of facts has produced.

Now, if you are not sufficiently pissed off yet, read the following report and add into it what you just became aware of.

Suicide among veterans highest in western US, rural areas

Associated Press
Hope Yen
September 16, 2017 
"This report is huge," said Rajeev Ramchand, an epidemiologist who studies suicide for the RAND Corp. He noted that the suicide rate is higher for veterans than non-veterans in every single state by at least 1.5 times, suggesting unique problems faced by former service members. "No state is immune."

Suicide among military veterans is especially high in the western U.S. and rural areas, according to new government data that show wide state-by-state disparities and suggest social isolation, gun ownership and access to health care may be factors.
The figures released Friday are the first-ever Department of Veterans Affairs data on suicide by state. It shows Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico had the highest rates of veteran suicide as of 2014, the most current VA data available. Veterans in big chunks of those states must drive 70 miles or more to reach the nearest VA medical center.
The suicide rates in those four states stood at 60 per 100,000 individuals or higher, far above the national veteran suicide rate of 38.4.
read more here 

Seems like someone is pushing the "privatization" of veterans getting the care they need instead of actually demanding answers as to why all these years has produced these pesky details no one has been held accountable for.

So no, even if I could walk away after all these years, I wouldn't. I started out for selfish reasons and that was my own future with my husband, when no one was talking about any of this. Now I look back and wish I could change what you know into what you need to know, but I can't as long as all this crap keeps getting in the way. If the truth does not come out, nothing will change for you because apparently this has become acceptable to far too many!


Pennsylvania veteran suicide rate lower than national

  SaturdaySept. 16, 2017

The suicide rate for Pennsylvania military veterans in 2014 was slightly below the national rate but more than twice the state's overall suicide rate, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs study released Friday.
The figures represent the first-ever data on veteran suicides by state. Overall, the study showed that suicides were higher in the western United States and rural areas.
The Pennsylvania rate of 37.9 suicides per 100,000 veterans was lower than the national veteran suicide rate of 38.4.