Statistics show that 22 veterans commit suicide every single day. This may seem high, but there are many factors that have contributed to this shocking figure. Veterans have faced high stress and trauma, both physically and mentally, during their service. The aftermath is still troubling because the adjustment into civilian life is not easy. With such lasting, negative effects on their lives, veterans are at a higher risk for suicide. The best thing that can be done is if we, as a community, educate ourselves on the facts, and offer what help and compassion we can.
Transitions and Effects
During military service, veterans are exposed to a number of threats that can lead to physical and mental health issues. These can include explosions, injury, death of fellow veterans or civilians, sexual assault, and the overall severity of a drastic lifestyle change.
After a veteran’s military service is complete, transitioning from a strict authoritarian routine to a more relaxed civilian lifestyle can prove difficult. In fact, most veteran suicides occur within three years of returning to noncombatant life. For an adjusting veteran, the lack of camaraderie, direction, and support of like-minded individuals can be devastating. Over all, they tend to experience disorientation, alienation, and insecurity after this period in their life has begun. These effects go deeper still, however.
With or without knowing it, there are physical and emotional side effects that a veteran will more than likely suffer from. They can include:
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
All of these factors are very pressing and stressful. With these in mind, it is clearer as to why the risk is high amongst veterans, especially those who were deployed or experienced combat.
Veterans and the Risk of Suicide
Through their traumatic experiences, mental or physical harm may have been endured by a veteran. However, even if a veteran does recognize a mental or physical problem, they often cannot get proper help. The reasoning is complex, but may be due to:
Perceived negative consequences of reporting mental health issues (such as not being eligible for promotion, being seen as weak, or being denied a security clearance)
Lack of understanding of available resources
Lack of trust of treatment facilities
Fear of the diagnosis
Unwillingness to stay in ongoing treatment
Unfortunately, those who do seek help often drop out of recovery programs early. In fact, of those veterans who enter treatment, up to 50% do not complete the program.
These trends all lead veterans to live with undiagnosed and untreated issues. As part of dealing with problems such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and sometimes addiction, they also deal with daily symptoms such as: nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, and trouble concentrating.
When these things are left unresolved, they can become factors towards suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
What Can Be Done
Fortunately, in 2013, President Obama added $107 million to improve mental health treatment for veterans. These efforts have helped advance availability of resources for veterans who suffer from mental health issues, which may reduce the overall number of veteran suicide.
In addition to seeking assistance from mental health professionals, studies show that community involvement and being amongst peers may help improve the lifestyle of former military members. If a loved one in your life is a veteran struggling with any of these issues, being present and offering help is the first step to showing support.
Steve Johnson has always been dedicated to promoting health and wellness in all aspects of life. Studying in the medical field has shown him how important it is for reputable health-related facts, figures, tips, and other guidance to be readily available to the public. He created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow student to act as a resource for people’s overall health inquiries and as an accurate and extensive source of health information. When he isn’t hard at work in his studies, Steve enjoys playing tennis and listening to his vintage record collection.