The Hidden Toll : 18 Veteran Suicides Every Day

Image from The Public Record.

Real cost of war:
Shocking suicide rate among vets

By Ted McLaughlin / The Rag Blog / April 27, 2010

We tend to hear about the United States soldiers that are killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thankfully that number has gone down in the last few months. That has given many Americans the false impression that these two unnecessary wars are not costing many American lives these days. Sadly, that is just not true.

It’s just that the cost of these wars on the lives of American soldiers and veterans is more hidden now, because most of the lives lost now is in this country — through suicide. But it is still directly attributable to service in Iraq and Afghanistan. These two wars are still costing this country a shocking number of American lives each and every day.

According to an article published in the Army Times on April 26, 2010, there is an average of 950 suicide attempts by veterans every month — and about 7% of those attempts are successful. Among those who fail, 11% will make a second attempt within nine months. They say that about 18 veterans commit suicide every day (and five of those are receiving VA care).

The data shows that there is a lower rate of suicide among those who are receiving VA care than among those who are not. The VA is trying to strengthen it’s suicide prevention programs and the VA figures they save about 250 lives each month through VA treatment. The VA suicide prevention hotline receives about 10,000 calls each month from current and former members of our military.

I commend the VA for their efforts and for the lives they are able to save, but obviously much more needs to be done. They not only need to increase their outreach to include many veterans not currently receiving care, but they also need to increase the quality and effectiveness of the care they are giving (because five suicides a day among those receiving treatment is just too many).

But the greatest need is to end these evil and unnecessary wars — immediately! While deaths may have gone down on the battlefield (although there are still too many), at 18 suicides a day the wars are still costing us way too many American lives. And this won’t stop until we stop putting our brave soldiers, both male and female, through the horrors of war (and will probably continue for months or years after the wars end).

The truth is that we are accomplishing nothing in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we are paying an awful price for these failures in nation-building. Let’s end it. Now.

[Rag Blog contributor Ted McLaughlin also posts at jobsanger.]

The Rag Blog

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10 Responses to The Hidden Toll : 18 Veteran Suicides Every Day

  1. C.Wise says:

    Do we leave Afghanistan and Iraq now? and leave them in this predicament? Crazy is war.How do we exit this place?

  2. Anonymous says:

    We put all of them onto the planes that they used to get there in the first place. That is how it is done – you get on the boat, or you get on the plane, and you leave.

  3. This is terrible, but let us also remember that we still experience higher-than-average suicide rates among veterans of Vietnam, the Gulf War of the 1990s, and, for all I know, other wars as well.

    I wonder what is the total number of combat veterans of all US wars who take their own lives each day?

    When a friend or family member chooses suicide over life, he or she leaves a void that can never be filled, a wound that never heals, a loss that can never be reconciled, thus reflecting the void, the wound, and the loss that has been inflicted on them by life, in whatever fashion it is dealt.

    Alcohol abuse is also implicated in an enormous percentage of suicides, of military veterans and others. Alcohol is the cheapest, most highly-advertised, legal and acceptable pain reliever our society administers. Sadly, it has side effects, especially in people who are aleady depressed, that only add to the underlying problem, while masking it from the drinker.

    Proven methods of addressing alcohol addiction are illegal in our great nation.

  4. Anonymous is right. Just put them on the planes and ships and bring them home. Why is that such a difficult concept?
    Leaving our soldiers there is to subscribe to the notion that we can solve their political problems with our military – and that’s not going to happen. You simply can’t impose democracy on another country with military power.
    These two countries are going to impose the government they want as soon as we leave, no matter how long we stay. And it’s probably not going to look anything like the puppet governments we have imposed on them.
    Staying just costs more lives now and assures more suicides in the future. Leaving immediately is the only thing that makes sense.

  5. C.Wise says:

    Aren’t we helping express the opportunity for every citizen to get the opportunity to vote, man or woman?
    – Show quoted text –

  6. C.Wise says:

    I don’t know what were trying to keep from happening, or trying to make happen. What does our President Obama know? more so VP, Joe Biden, actually is very familiar with this area, what does he know? I mean, didn’t we learn from Vietnam, Civil War, dark moments throughout history? Do we need to create “work” so desperately? at the cost of confusion, mis-identity and lost innocence? Just get up and leave these fellow humans, like Darfur and the Canadians? No more money, sorry. Fight for yourself, and were taking our guns home too. Sorry.

  7. J. Palmer-Lacy says:

    And how many more victims would be identified if we looked at recruits who do not make it past bootcamp and have that failure to live with at the age of 18 or 20? The example of Drew Siporak in Kay Redfield Jamison’s Night Falls Fast, whose mental illness coinicided with his graduation form Air Force Academy, is the classic case. Military doctors can congratulate themselves on identifying possible candidates for breakdown before or after they see active duty, but who addresses the culture of combat that equates military service with manhood? The trauma that so many soldiers experience in connection with military service is only one aspect of the rude awakening that comes in realizing how little value is placed on offering a “life for one’s country.”

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your excellent blog, which I only just discovered now!

    The only decent way to “support the troops” is to get them out NOW! – from every illegal occupation battle field, Iraq, Afghanistan, everywhere else! – on the first ship, on the first plane, as quick as possible, just get them out!

    Then keep them out of any future criminal wars of imperialist aggression.

    They are not there for any “noble cause” – not for “freedom”, “democracy”, “human rights”, or to “stop terrorists”. They are there only to protect the obscene profits of the capitalist ruling class, their control of resources, and world dominance.

    “War is a racket”, as WW2 hero Smedley Butler famously wrote, and the troops and paid mercenaries are “the gangsters of Wall Street”.

    Of course, such truths are not going to be acknowledged by those who profit from this war racket, or the mainstream media which is mostly their propaganda arm.

    It will only ever come about when a critical mass of ordinary, decent people understand this, and resolve to say “Enough!”

    Alternative news websites, and blogs like this, are an essential part of informing and activating public opinion.

    All power to you!
    Thank you, and good luck!

    Bruce McPhie

  9. Richard says:

    I too am a fan of General Butler, so just on note of correction to your comment. “Old Gimlet Eye” died before WWII. He was in France for WWI. He was a “gangster for Wall Street” in the Philippines, China, throughout the Caribe, and Banana Republics of Central America.

    Thanks for your comment, you are right on.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the correction, Richard! Yes, of course you are correct, and it was my careless mistake! Major-General Smedley Butler(1881-1940)was described as “America’s most decorated soldier”, being twice decorated with the Medal of Honor. However, the most honourable thing he ever did was to turn into a whistle blower against war. What an inspiration for other military folk today!!!


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