Remembering Veterans Who Have Committed Suicide
Remember All Our Fallen Veterans
Remembering Veterans Who Killed Themselves
On Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, Americans remember and honor all veterans who have died in service to their country. Many speeches and prayers are said for our fallen heroes and our physically wounded veterans, but it is doubtful that the same will be done for a particular group of veterans that have traditionally been given little public recognition or awareness- our veterans, both male and female, who have attempted to commit suicide, have succeeded in killing themselves, or are currently at risk for committing suicide.
The case of Capt. E. Alan Brudno, whose name was finally added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 2004, is a tragic example of a veteran whose suicide was eventually deemed to be a result of wounds sustained in the combat zone. His story was told during a 2004 Memorial Day ceremony at The Wall:
"On Oct. 18, 1965, while flying a combat mission over North Vietnam, Brudno was forced to eject from his aircraft. He was held as a prisoner of war for seven and a half years during the war period. Brudno was repatriated in February 1973. He died of his wounds when he took his life, on June 3, 1973, less than four months later."
The inclusion of his name on the wall was highly unusual but fell within defined criteria for Wall inclusion. Brudno had endured long-term, severe physical and psychological abuse and torture-related wounds inflicted by the enemy in the defined combat zone and it was deemed that these wounds were a direct cause of his subsequent suicide. At the time his name was added to the wall military officials stressed that the merits of his particular case flowed from its unique circumstances and the decision was not to be broadly interpreted to include post-war deaths that were more distantly based on cases of war-related psychological trauma.
A recent article titled, "Self-Inflicted Deaths Among Women With U.S. Military Service: A Hidden Epidemic?" appeared in the December 2010 journal, Psychiatric Services. The new data shows that women have picked up a trend that has been found in male veterans for years: attempting suicide by the use of guns. Tragically, this means that veterans of both genders are more successful in completing their suicide attempts compared to those who are non-veterans. According to the above study, female veterans are nearly 3 times as likely to commit suicide as civilian women, who generally choose less violent methods of killing themselves.
Sad Iraq USA Army Dedication Video
A Call to Action
Mark Kaplan, DPh, professor of community health at Portland State University and co-author of the aforementioned study concluded that, "The elevated rates of suicide among women veterans should be a call-to-action, especially for clinicians and caregivers, to be aware of warning signs and helpful prevention resources."
And indeed, the author of this hub was inspired to write about this issue after reading about the study in an American Nurses Association newsletter.
Until recently, the Veterans Administration (VA) had denied that veterans' suicidal deaths were an urgent problem that required research, statistic gathering, preventive measures and an overhaul of VA health care policies, but at a Department of Defense (DoD)-VA suicide prevention conference held in Boston on 3/15/11, Deputy Secretary of VA Affairs W. Scott Gould made the following comments: "The suicide rate among male Veterans is almost twice that of the general population. Older Veterans account for most Veteran suicides. These are often men and women overcome by age-related depression. Some are burdened with disabilities and psychic trauma from their time in the service.
But young male Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have seen some of the highest increases in their suicide rates in the past decade.
We need more research, particularly on the effectiveness of screening programs, cognitive therapies, and educational efforts. We need to keep fighting the stigma attached to seeking mental health care. War is not normal. Veterans see things no man or woman was ever meant to see. They suffer unseen wounds in no ordinary way. There is no shame in having suffered such wounds- and no shame in seeking help in dealing with them. Some veterans perhaps understand this better than others, but many Veterans and non-Veterans still need to be taught that those who do suffer in this way can still lead stable, productive lives while receiving care."
Suicide Warning Signs
According to the VA, recognition of the following warning signs is the key to preventing veteran deaths by suicide. Veterans exhibiting some or all of these warning signs should be evaluated by their physician and/or a mental health provider:
- Talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself.
- Trying to get pills, guns, or other ways to harm oneself.
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.
- Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge.
- Acting in a reckless or risky way.
- Feeling trapped, like there's no way out.
- Saying or feeling there's no reason for living.
Legislation for Suicide Prevention Passed in 2015
On February 12, 2015, President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. The purpose of this act is to provide help to US veterans suffering from PTSD.
This legislation provides funding for the study of new trauma treatment strategies as well as for recruiting more mental health practitioners to work with veterans.
The bill's namesake was a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who struggled with post traumatic stress disorder and campaigned on behalf of veterans health care. Tragically, he took his own life in 2011 at age 28.
Although this bill is a huge step in the right direction, veteran's groups will be watching closely to see how it's implemented in the coming months and years to ensure the promised help becomes a reality and to see if more legislation is needed to address this issue.
Confidential Help for Veterans and Their Families
The Veterans Crisis Line was established as a partnership between VA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is staffed by caring VA responders, many of whom are veterans themselves and is a Dept. of Veterans Affairs resource that connects Veterans and/or their family members with qualified VA professionals. The Veterans Crisis Line can be reached by dialing 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) and pressing 1 to immediately talk to someone.
Further resources can be found online at the Veterans Page of the National Suicide Prevention Website at: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans/Default.aspx This page provides access to the Veterans Confidential Chat, and the Confidential Homeless Veterans Chat twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and has links to a Veterans Resource Locator where resources for finding suicide prevention coordinators, crisis center, VA medical centers, outpatient clinics, Veterans Benefits Administration offices and vet centers are located.
Reach Out And Help a Veteran
We can honor all our deceased veterans on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day and also reach out to those veterans who are still living and are struggling with the emotional and physical wounds of war. If you know a veteran who seems to be exhibiting the symptoms discussed in this hub please reach out and show them you care by letting them know help is available. A single phone call, or helping them connect online and apply for services may prevent future suicidal deaths. The VA has finally started to address this issue by making it easier than ever to connect with help, but they need ordinary citizens, friends of veterans and family members of veterans to spread the word that resources are available and are easier to access than in years past.
Buy a Book, Help a Veteran
In the fall of 2013 a group of story contributors (including myself), and editors, joined together as volunteers to form the Legacy Archives Foundation which is dedicated to the preservation and archiving of non-fiction stories. The first book in what will become a series is, "Mysterious & Miraculous Book I." It is a collection of true stories which have an element of the supernatural and/or divine intervention at their core. Though the stories are not about veterans, 70% of the book's earnings will go to support the non-profit, K9s for Wounded Warriors Program/Rescue, an organization that assists veterans by rescuing and training K9s to act as service dogs.
For more information about "Mysterious & Miraculous Book I" and how the proceeds will help support veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, click on the link below:
Book Review: Mysterious & Miraculous
- Book Review: Mysterious & Miraculous
Mysterious and Miraculous is a newly released Kindle book featuring true stories which have an element of the supernatural and/or divine intervention. 70% of earnings go to K9s for Wounded Warriors.
Link to an Excellent Hub, "The Trouble With Suicide and Extreme Emotional Distress"
- The Trouble With Suicide and Extreme Emotional Distress
My friend and fellow hubber, Kimh039, wrote this comprehensive hub about the high rate of suicide on a world wide basis, not just for US vets. It has excellent information about signs and symptoms, causes of suicide and resources to prevent suicide.