An Epidemic And National Tragedy: Veteran Suicides

In one year more veterans will die from suicide than on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan combined since those wars began. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one suicide per 80 minutes. It’s a national tragedy and one that needs a remedy right now.

Nicholas Kristof offered this compelling look into this dark spot on the military and on the country as a whole and offers a few explanations. One reason for the high rate of veteran suicides may be the significant injuries related to post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. According to Kristof, by most estimates about one in five veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from either or both PTSD and TBI. One study showed that by their third or fourth tours in Iraq or Afghanistan more than one-quarter of soldiers suffered from these health problems.

That means that being a veteran now roughly doubles a person’s risk of suicide. And for young men ages 17 to 24, being a veteran almost quadruples that risk.

Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee rightly described the issue as an “epidemic” that is not being adequately addressed. So far the Veterans Administration has established a suicide hotline and has designated suicide-prevention staff. There are efforts to chip away at the culture within the military as well–the so called “warrior” culture that dismisses mental health concerns. It’s a start.

But those measures hardly address the underlying problems that created this epidemic to begin with: unending wars and a military that is not adequately equipped to deal with the human cost of those wars. At what point do we decide that cost is simply too much to bear?

Related Stories:

Female Vets Facing Crisis At Home

Helping Military Spouses Find Jobs

Photo from isafmedia via flickr.


George Houston
George Houston5 years ago

Pan Am Flight 103, a U.S. passenger jet, was destroyed by a terrorist bomb on 21 December 1988, over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 passengers and crew and 11 residents. Among the passengers were thirty-five foreign-study students from Syracuse University. The incident ignited a protracted effort to bring the suspected perpetrators to trial and marked a shift from hijacking to sabotage in terrorism against Western targets.

Read more:
Suicide was the leading cause of death among jail inmates in 1983 (129 per 100,000 inmates); by 1993 that rate had been cut by more than half (54 per 100,000 inmates), source Death in Custody Reporting Act DICRA PL 106-297 WHY? FRUSTRATION WITH CONDITIONS.
On Monday morning, September 13, 1971, an uprising by prison inmates of the Attica Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison located in western New York, ended in the bloodiest prison confrontation in American history. Five days earlier, thirteen hundred prisoners had rebelled, taken over the prison, and held forty guards hostage. Issuing a list of demands—including calls for improvements in living conditions as well as educational and training opportunities—they entered into negotiations with state officials. The negotiations failed and state police and national guard troops seized the prison; in the cours

Jill R.
Jill R.5 years ago

While reading this I was wondering why this was not an issue after WW1 or ll. Was it because there was more in place for those returning home in terms of support. Does any Government official ever look at these comments and say "Wow - this is terrible, I need to do something positive TODAY to help our veterans" Does anyone ever think that this is a major 'voting' issue at the next election - after all, those in power today got there because of a vote - YOURS. We should be ashamed of ourselves for letting this continue. Sad, Sad, Sad.

Decobecq Brigitte
Decobecq B5 years ago

Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one suicide per 80 minutes

Yes, you are right. This is a tragedy.
It seems that to have "better" soldier, it is common to use special drug and to give thoses drugs to them.
"You will be strong, no fear, do not sleep..."
Military doctor is now a dealer...
Then, when you come back to "the normal life"... How to find the joy of living with the feeling that life is worth something ?
Soldier are not "superman", they are human beings. And if you change them as "killing machine", then you will pay the price. Life is worth nothing...
Why living then ? The only solution is suicide...

Amanda Goodwin
Amanda Goodwin5 years ago

Noted and passed on.

Teresa Cowley
Teresa Cowley5 years ago

The government has the responsibility to ensure that these veterans have their needs met, but of course the politicians are busily lining their own pockets. These Washington bureaucrats are the most worthless group of maggots I have ever seen!

Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey5 years ago

Where are Steve R and Jeffey W on this topic, proclaiming how Jessica always lies?


Is that crickets I hear?

AbdulAziz A.
AbdulAziz A5 years ago

It is very sad that the people sent to far away lands to protect the Western countries. What a joke, they are not sent for the people of West but there to protect the interests of capitalists, arms manufacturers, corporates and the rich.

Poor service men and women are just the cannon fodder and their value is much less than the bank balances and raping of other lands and their people. When they have finished the dirty work for the rich, they are themselves thrown on the scrap heap to rot or die.

This is a shame on the society who consider themselves to be superior than others and have right to kill and rape anywhere.

Eventually the evil catches up with the society that went on the killing spree and again the poor suffer. The society where the only escape from poverty is through going out and killing the innocent on behalf of the rich elite, this would be a logical outcome.

If there were other jobs available, the poor would not automatically chose to join the forces where they have no choice but to kill or be killed.

Robert Fitzgerald

The problem is that we are a war loving culture, hanging on desperately to our ideals of heroism and manliness. PTSD is an embarrassment to our warrior mentality and our cultural manliness. We create wars so that we can justify a powerful military and cutting edge weaponry. We love to think of ourselves as the world's strongest country. Number 1. We love the masculinity and efficient killing abilities of our Navy SEALS and Green Beret. God, that is all so macho!!!! And ego satisfying!!! I am proud to be an American! A suicidal American!

Gloria H.
Gloria H5 years ago

Wasn't the reason they are fighting "over there" is so they are not fighting "over here"?
So, what is the sacrifice of a few thousand each year as long as we can shop till we drop 365 days a year without having to dodge bullets behind a sales counter?
We can nudge, nudge, wink, wink at recruiters on school campuses knowing they will ensnare enough yearly to keep us safe, and they are only going after someone else's kid.

Robert Ludwig
Robert Ludwig5 years ago

The DOD's own report estimates that a military suicide occurs approximately every 36 hours. Any ideas why?

o Multiple deployments with no end in sight.
o Unshared sacrifice.
o Incredible stress on families.
o Being shot at and blown up on a regular basis.
o Cutbacks on VA benefits.
o Military environment in which seeking help is a career killer.
o Nobody concerned enough to actually do anything about it.

What could possibly be wrong?

For the record, this isn't an epidemic, it's a pandemic.