We Can Do More
The number one cause of death among active duty military personnel is suicide. According to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) annual report on suicides, “the rate of suicide was higher than the rates for all other causes combined.”1 The DoD reports that there were over 1,200 suicides among active duty members of the armed forces in 2012 alone.2 That means that approximately 20% of all soldiers killed themselves during their service.3
In addition to the high rate of suicide, the DoD reports that “more than half of those who committed suicide had a history of mental health problems.”4 These numbers are even higher when considering that many soldiers with mental health issues may not have reported them to their commanders due to fear or shame.5
What is it about war and combat that makes some individuals so depressed? What factors might contribute to such feelings? And what does this say about our society at large?
There are several theories about why some people become suicidal. One theory suggests that the stress of combat and combat related conditions increase the risk of depression.6 Another theory suggests that certain types of people are more likely to commit suicide, including males, those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and those with histories of abuse.7 A third theory suggests that certain environmental factors increase the risk of suicide. These factors include family history of suicide, witnessing a loved one commit suicide, and divorce.8
Regardless of the reasons, the fact remains that there is a high rate of suicide among soldiers.
And it begs the question: what can be done to prevent this?
The DoD has taken steps to help those with mental illnesses, such as providing training for officers to identify at-risk soldiers and providing funding for mental health care.9 However, these measures may not be enough. As one report states, “military personnel with psychiatric disorders may not be well-identified and thus left untreated.”10 In addition, many soldiers may not seek mental health treatment due to a fear of consequences and a desire to remain combat ready.11
As a result, there has been some debate about the need to create an environment that is less likely to cause soldiers stress and depression so that fewer soldiers are at risk for suicide.
Sources & references used in this article:
The problem with root cause analysis by …, S Carr, J Waring, M Dixon-Woods – BMJ quality & …, 2017 – qualitysafety.bmj.com
Saddam’s delusions: The view from the inside by K Woods, J Lacey, W Murray – Foreign Aff., 2006 – HeinOnline
Night falls fast: Understanding suicide by KR Jamison – 2011 – books.google.com
The Three Walls Behind the Wall: The Myth of Vietnam Veteran Suicide by G Woods – 1998 – Yale University Press
Is life worth living? by M Kelley – Online: www. vwam. com/vets/suicide. html, 1997 – ndqsa.com
Being Naked–playing Dead: The Art of Peter Greenaway by W James – The International Journal of Ethics, 1895 – journals.uchicago.edu