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One Every Day: Military Suicide Crisis Continues

June is PTSD Awareness Month; More VA Care Available. 

On Memorial Day, our nation paused and remembered our fallen heroes.  In the coming weeks, let us please also remember that June is PTSD Awareness Month.  Posttraumatic stress disorder is something from which nearly one in three post-9/11 veterans suffer – and it is undoubtedly the primary reason why the suicide rates for military and veterans are so tragically high.

According to a report in The New York Times, suicide among active-duty troops hit a record of 350 in 2012.  That’s one every day.  Even with the withdrawal from Iraq and the pullback in Afghanistan, suicide within the military has continued to rise significantly faster thanwithin the general population.

In 2002, the Times reports, the military’s suicide rate was 10.3 per 100,000 troops, well below the comparable civilian rate. But today the rate nearly doubled, and exceeds 18 per 100,000 people.  PTSD remains a serious problem now, and for decades to come.

There is professional help out there for active duty members of the military, veterans, and their loved ones.  Here are just some resources from the VA for veterans and their families, and here is a link to VA’s suicide prevention website.

Additionally, all veterans who’ve been in a war zone get five years of free VA medical care, and deployed veterans and veterans with military sexual trauma (MST) get free counseling at Vet Centers nationwide.

But even with these resources, are we as a country really doing enough to prevent our warriors from falling? In this poignant article, Zachary Bell, a Marine veteran haunted by his service in Afghanistan, writes that the time has come to change the perception of PTSD  to allow greater honesty and healing.

“What can we do to save the next Marine, the next veteran, struggling with suicidal thoughts?” he writes. “The first step would be to make it easier for veterans and active-duty service members to ask for help. The second step might be to help the rest of society understand that many veterans are struggling to find their way back to normal.”

Bell, who served with the First Battalion, Sixth Marines and deployed twice to Helmand Province, concludes that if we do not take those steps, “the nation may face another record year for military suicides and ever greater divisions between veterans and the rest of society.”

Please learn about PTSD and share these resources with your community.

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