Sunday, August 26, 2012

The whys of military suicides and why we shouldn't still be asking why

The whys of military suicides and why we shouldn't still be asking why.
by Chaplain Kathie
Wounded Times Blog
August 26, 2012

We can pretend all we want that military suicides are some kind of new manifestation but in doing so we fail all of them. I keep reading how the military has no clue what to do each time the monthly report shows more and more committed suicide the month before. While there are many attempts to prevent this hopelessness, none of them have worked.

They set up a suicide prevention hotline getting thousands of calls a month yet there are hundreds of attempted suicides. Who is asking why so many feel so desperate suicide seems to be the only way out?

The VA keeps one set of numbers. The DOD keeps another set of numbers with each branch keeping their own. Reporters think they have the whole truth, get up in arms over the ever increasing numbers and make headlines. Anyone reading these numbers believing they have a clue how bad it really is, is not doing their job.

This leaves us with people still having to write about what they know hoping and praying someone will finally listen.

Community Advisory Board: Henry - The whys of military suicides
Fay Observer
By Kelly Henry
Aug 24, 2012

Remove stigma of help Destigmatizing behavioral health treatment is essential as well. It does not matter how many resources are available if those who need them will not seek help for fear of being seen as weak.

Our force is at risk - our families, our friends, our neighbors and our community. Fort Bragg leads the Army this year in deaths by suicide. Physical rehabilitation following an injury is seen as essential to healing. Conditioning for a physically demanding task is essential as well. Both preventive and rehabilitative behavioral health must get the same emphasis, through all phases of the deployment cycle.

The headline on the Associated Press story, "July is deadliest month of 2012 for U.S. troops," didn't tell the whole story - July was deadly in more ways than one. In addition to the 40 killed in Afghanistan, another 38 are dead as a result of suspected or confirmed suicide. Why so many? How do we turn the tide? The Army's suicide rate is 22 percent higher this year than last. Could it be that the trauma of repeated combat exposure makes increased suicide risk an unavoidable artifact of war?

Three elements are necessary to complete suicide, according to a study, "Overcoming the fear of lethal injury: Evaluating suicidal behavior in the military through the lens of the Interpersonal Psychological Theory of Suicide," first published in Clinical Psychology Review. These include feeling that one does not belong with other people, feeling that one is a burden on others and an acquired capability to overcome the fear and pain associated with suicide. The authors postulate that combat exposure and military training give service members that acquired ability to a degree greater than their civilian counterparts.
read more here

The first step is to either end "resiliency training" or totally rework it because telling them they can train their brains to be mentally tough is part of the reasons there is still the stigma attached to Combat PTSD.

This is from Fort Bragg, the base with the most suicides this year. The catch is that this is from two years ago. It came out in 2010.

Piece by piece let's take a look at what they got wrong.

Fort Bragg officials discuss suicide prevention
July 30, 2010
By Tina Ray

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - With the number of suicides and attempted suicides on the rise Army-wide, officials got together for a roundtable discussion July 21, at the Soldier Support Center to address the issue.

According to the latest Army figures, there were 32 confirmed or suspected suicides in June alone, an increase of 22 from the previous month.
Battlemind Training began in 2008, the same idea of training their brains to be mentally tough. At issue here is when a soldier hears he can train his brain to be tough, he thinks PTSD is a sign of being mentally weak. If you have to train your brain to prevent PTSD, then they didn't train right if they end up "getting it" thus blocking any dialog with others they view as being tougher than they are. Whatever else this training had to offer went in one ear and out the other. They already got the message the DOD thinks PTSD is their fault.

On Fort Bragg, there have been four confirmed suicides since Jan. 2, said Larry Holland, suicide prevention program manager with the Army Substance Abuse Program. Holland joined four others at the roundtable discussion.

Substance abuse is yet another issue they do not understand. Sometimes they are actually addicted to the chemicals in alcohol and drugs. A rehab will help them along with a support program. However, while some also have PTSD with the addiction, they need to have both treated or neither attempt will work. Others are using drugs and alcohol so they can get numb, stop feeling, pass out at night and convince themselves they have fallen asleep instead of passing out.

Statistically, for every suicide, there are 10 suicide attempts, Holland said.

This is true as far as they know. What is not factored in are the "unknown" attempts and successful suicides. Car "accidents" when only their vehicle is involved. Motorcycle "accidents" when their bike hits a tree or goes over a cliff or when they speed thru intersections. Do they know for sure it was an accident? No, they don't. Drug overdoses are never clear. Did they take too much because they forgot they already took their meds or did they take too many on purpose?

But, Fort Bragg is full of agencies and people willing to step in to deter the increasing number of suicides.

Again, this article came out two years ago clearly proving that what they are doing is not working.

From ASAP to primary health providers, from behavioral health and social work professionals to military Family life consultants, the help is there for Soldiers and Families who need it.
Here is yet one more example. The "family" consultants may be able to talk to a spouse but not the parents. The unmarried soldier does not have someone to go to talk the therapist to help them know what to do. The therapist usually does not have a clue what combat PTSD really is and only studied it in a text book. Too many give limited advice and even more give the wrong information. Every week I am contacted by someone when it is too late to save someone they loved or a veteran on the verge. The common complaint is "no one told me" what they needed to know. Hint here, aside from living with PTSD for 30 years, I studied what the experts had to say and listened to other veterans for just as long. The information is all out there if they bothered to find it.

"The wonderful thing about Fort Bragg is that we have everything here that we need as a helping agency," said Emilee Owens, also a suicide prevention program manager at ASAP.
This one shows yet again "what they have" not based on evidence. Fort Bragg has most Army suicides this year so for all of the claims they have "everything" the result has been deadly.

You can click the link above for the rest of this report but I think you have the idea. As long as they are still pushing what has been proven to be a failure, we will keep seeing more and more suicides in the military and back home. We will keep hearing people ask "why" as long as reporters do not invest the time to look back and see if what they claim is true or not.

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