Monday, April 28, 2014

Florida among the highest for veteran suicides

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
April 28, 2014

1,150,000 calls in the VA crisis line yet suicides are higher than before it started. The military suicides have increased after their "prevention" programs started. When we read a million and a half veterans called at the point of ending their own lives, it shows different things need to be done, not more of the same.

Too many veterans feel isolated when they leave the military. While the percentage of suicides in the military are up, the number of suicides is down because of discharges they no longer have to count.

Today I was in Melbourne to film hundreds of bikers escorting the Traveling Wall into Wickham Park. The Vietnam and All Veterans Reunion is one of the biggest events in the country. Most of the time events in Central Florida are attended by huge groups of veterans. We have the third highest population, slightly behind Texas at number two and California with the most.

Over the ten years I have lived here, it gets harder and harder to read reports like this. It isn't just the sadness from lives lost, but more knowing what is possible for so many others and wondering why all veterans don't find the same sense of family. Is it a secret hidden from them? Didn't anyone tell them that trying to "fit" back in with civilians is not worth the effort?

Had they really wanted to fit in with civilians, they wouldn't have been tugged to join the military. They would have done what everyone else was doing. Thinking of others is not what your average person does beyond their own families.

Volunteers give their time and their love but that is spare time. They don't really fit in with other groups of people never understanding what it is like to do what they do. Members of fire departments don't fit in with other groups. Police officers don't fit in with other groups. So why would veterans want to fit in with other groups?

There is a bond that goes far beyond what co-workers experience. Risking your life for the sake of someone else if something few appreciate and even less understand.

If you are a veteran in Florida, join up with other groups just like you and then you'll know, you belong right where you are, with others you can lean on and be there for them.

Reading this report with over a million calls to the Veterans crisis lines with a rise in suicides proves the need to have "family" standing by your side and they need you just as much.
Military, veteran suicides account for nearly one in every four in Florida ... but the numbers don't explain why
Rate is one of the nation's highest
Florida Times Union
By Clifford Davis
Apr 26, 2014
“Since its inception, the crisis line has had over 1,150,000 calls,” said Thompson of the VA’s suicide prevention program. “That’s pretty extraordinary. We’re so glad we’ve had that many calls, but of course it’s heartbreaking that people need to reach out that much.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class David Faithful dreamed of becoming a pilot but — with only a high school education — he knew that was not going to happen anytime soon.

Instead, he became a parachute rigger for ejection seats in Navy aircraft.

It wasn’t exactly what he wanted, but he did his job.

“He did OK with it for a while,” said his mother, Cindy Faithful.

She said her son battled bouts of depression since he was about 17. “He would go through spells where he was really good and then spells where he was not so good.”

Medication would help, but the 25-year-old Faithful knew if he agreed to take psychiatric drugs he would lose his security clearance and his job at Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

“He said his life was a tragedy, a bad movie,” Cindy Faithful said.

“The night before he died, he came up to me and hugged me,” said Cindy Faithful. “He told me, ‘Mom, I really love you and I appreciate everything you’ve been doing for me. I think everything is going to be OK.’ ”

The next day his father found him inside his car — wearing his dress white uniform — in their garage, dead from carbon monoxide poisoning.

In Florida, the numbers are staggering.

Although veterans make up only 8 percent of the state’s population, they accounted for more than 25 percent of its suicides, according to the report.

Between 1999 and 2011, 31,885 suicides were reported in the state, according to the Florida Department of Health. That would mean more than 8,000 Florida veterans took their lives during those 13 years, according to the VA.

The numbers put Florida among states with the highest percentage of veteran suicides — but the numbers don't explain why.

“We’re still trying to figure that out,” said Caitlin Thompson, the deputy director of Suicide Prevention at the VA.

With such daunting statistics, it’s easy to forget that behind every suicide is a circle of family and friends that will deal with the pain and the often-unanswered question of why.

Increasingly, veterans who commit suicide are not men in their 50s and 60s. Suicides for veterans of that age group have remained steady or declined.

Yet, suicides by veterans from 18 to 29 have jumped from 40.3 to 57.9 per 100,000 from 2009 to 2011, a 44 percent increase, the VA announced earlier this year.
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