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Female Veterans More Likely To Commit Suicide

Female Veterans More Likely To Commit Suicide

I was shocked to learn that about 20 percent of the 32,000 people who commit suicide every year in the U.S. were veterans.  Even more horrifying was the revelation that, according to a recent study, female veterans are about three times as likely as their civilian peers to commit suicide.

This is something that Mark Kaplan, a researcher at Portland State University who conducted the study using information collected about female deaths by suicide in 16 states, wants us to take seriously.  “When we think of suicide, and suicide completion, I don’t think we often think of women enough,” he told NPR. “That’s my point.”

Female veterans often have to deal with very different issues than their male peers.  Because of the high incidence of sexual assault in the military and the military’s tendency to ignore and underplay accusations of assault or refuse to punish the rapists, women have to deal with the traumatic aftermath of rape without any of the support they need; they also struggle with returning to their children and families.  The director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Suicide Prevention Hotline explained,

“They worry that because they sometimes get angry and don’t deal with things well that they won’t be appropriate with their kids.”

It’s true that although women are more likely to be depressed and attempt suicide, men are far more likely to complete suicide.  This means that our discussions of gender and suicide are often skewed toward men, especially among veteran populations, which until recently were almost exclusively male.  What I’d like to see is a comparison of female and male veteran suicide rates, which the NPR article didn’t mention. 

But in any case, the pressures of being a female soldier are clearly making it very difficult for female veterans to integrate successfully back into civilian life, and that’s something that the U.S. military needs to address.  Otherwise, the problem will just get worse.

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Photo from the U.S. Military.

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56 comments

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7:06AM PST on Jan 28, 2012

John E. knows what he's talking about, and I agree with him.but it's the same in all armys,they put you in harms way and when you have battle fatigue,not enough after care and not only mentally,but also ajusting to civie street.

6:57PM PST on Jan 12, 2011

Check any discussion of PTSD. It will usually be related to combat. I believe that the higher suicide rates for women veterans are because PTSD due to MST or military sexual trauma is so overlooked in the present and past system. The military wants women, but when they experience MST, they want the women to downplay it and "buck up". I am very fortunate that my local PTSD Veterans group embraces all manner of PTSD and the male vets stand with us but unfortunately that is the exception to the rule!

4:17AM PST on Jan 11, 2011

My daughter is a Filipino and a new US Army soldier...I hope she made the right decision to serve the US military to defend the freedom of Americans...hoping, too, that the military women will get what they truly deserve, be respected and will be treated fairly by their fellow male military counterparts...

10:23PM PST on Dec 14, 2010

Noted

1:22PM PST on Dec 13, 2010

Shameful ...reveals the mentality of those who start illegal wars ...

Still ... it's an ill wind ... many senior figures in THAT govt. did rather well out of it ...

A partial answer is having strong, dedicated veteran's organisations to help ease the burden ... a sympathetic govt can certainly make a difference.

6:54AM PST on Dec 11, 2010

After exhibiting the bravery it takes to be a soldier in a war zone the armed forces return home to virtually no help at all. You would think after all they have done for their country that there would be all the support they need. So many veterans end up homeless after returning home. Many women lose their children too.

Shameful lack of respect for their service.

9:37AM PST on Dec 10, 2010

Men need to address other Men and hold each other to a higher standard of behavior toward everyone. Women are needed in much higher numbers in every aspect of the American decision making process and globally. This lopsidedness is killing America and Our Planet. We NEED BOTH GENDERS making decisions to bring it back to center.

9:20AM PST on Dec 10, 2010

The issue isn't whether we should or should not support female soldiers, but why Men fail at supporting all soldiers in their units. Every time there is a female centered issue males always want to shift that focus back to themselves or deter other women from helping other women. This male centered mindset is where "ALL" the trouble begins. We as a society need to be centered on EVERYONE, not just males. Until we address this we cannot refer to America as " HOME OF THE FREE" America has yet to live up to this statement!

8:18AM PST on Dec 10, 2010

This country has a horrible record of using it's young men and women as "cannon" fodder for attacking other young men, women, children and old people with hideous weapons for reasons of empire - having nothing to do with defense or terrorists or any of the other reasons the propaganda machine cranks out. Wikileaks? It shows the under-belly of a sick and dying nation, the facile reasons we go to war, and has given us a window on the hearts and minds of those brave soldiers who have, too often, seen the hypocrisy of the whole thing. The suicides and TPS come from the realization that you risked your life for a cause that was false and then treated with a pat on the head (or the butt) and sent off to make your way in the "real world".... suck it up soldier! I hope we discover more and more of the truth and painful as it may be, that it inspires us to take control of our country and the military complex that runs it. Where's the petition to sign for Manning?

6:45AM PST on Dec 10, 2010

Very sad. Thanks for the info.

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