Military Suicide … Not a Military Problem?

EDITORIAL: Drive On – Suicide Remains an Intractable Enemy

Fayetteville Observer, July 16, 2012

Suicide prevention is, as a Veterans Administration medical expert put it, “an extremely complex and difficult task.” And yet those who treat troops and veterans have no choice but to make perfection their standard, because there’s no acceptable number of failures.

A week ago, The Observer reported on the case of a soldier who perhaps should not have become a soldier, because he’d been treated for a psychiatric problem. But the recruiter didn’t know and, in fairness, for much of the past decade the emphasis was on finding reasons to enlist soldiers, not to turn them away.

The soldier carries the baggage of an Iraq tour in addition to whatever self-destructive tendencies he might have brought into the Army. He was hospitalized in Alabama for substance abuse. Back at Fort Bragg he threatened suicide, which landed him in a different hospital.

But too few things worked and, in late May, he attempted suicide. The attempt failed. Three days later he was in the Cumberland County jail.

But the record of the attempt didn’t follow him there, and he wasn’t even placed on suicide watch.

That’s one troop out of all our armed services. “Extremely complex and difficult” begins to read like understatement.

Before committing to a quest for a single, simple remedy, some perspective is needed.

The suicide rate in the civilian population is lower, but not by much.

Read the rest of this story:

BLOGBACK: Since the skyrocketing rate of suicide among military members and veterans first began appearing in news reports early in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many have sought to somehow explain it by referencing what is professed to be ‘similar’ or ‘near similar’ suicide rates in the non-military population.

Any attempt at such a comparison is a fool’s game and disingenuous.

The only honest way to compare the suicide rate in a military demographic against that of a non-military demographic, would first require a very significant demographic adjustment.

In the civilian demographic, completed suicides by individuals who would not have otherwise qualified for military service on physical, mental, educational or moral (criminal) grounds would need to be subtracted.

This key demographic adjustment is always missing from military-civilian suicide rate comparisons.

Only when this adjustment is factored in, can comparisons between the military and civilian suicide rates be accepted as accurate or relevant.

This adjustment, however, is conveniently avoided by many participating in the discussion because to account for it would demonstrate in even more stark terms the severity of the military’s ongoing suicide epidemic.


One Response

  1. Brilliant reply!

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