Pat Hernandez, KUHF Public Radio
Pentagon figures show suicides in the military rose to a new record last year, even as the war in the Middle East winds down. While the services recognize the stress associated with returning soldiers, the Houston VA Hospital is working to counter this chronic problem.
The rate of military suicides is more than double the number recorded in the first year of the Iraq War, and last year’s total is the highest since the Pentagon began tracking the trend in 2001. The number of suicides in the past 10 years exceeds the number of combat deaths suffered by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan.
The problem is complicated by anxiety over the prospect of being forced out of uniform as defense budgets are cut.
“There are some people that can go through what they go through in combat, and come back and use that productively in life.”
Kathy Molitar is one of three Suicide Prevention Program managers at the Houston VA Hospital near the medical center.
“They got a lot of anxiety, or they got a very short trigger as far as their anger. They’re engaging in risky activity. Increasing drug or alcohol abuse are very big signs. Withdrawing from family or friends is another big sign.”
GIs long stressed by deployments, are coming home to a shrinking military and a slow economy. They often struggle with finances and relationships, and wounds that include traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Military Suicides Set New Record (San Antonio Express)
- 18% More U.S. Troops Committed Suicide Than Died in Combat Last Year (The Atlantic)
- Military Suicides Top Combat Deaths – But Only Because the Wars Are Ending (Time)
- Suicide in the Military – Special Report (Stars & Stripes)
- Special Report: Uncounted Casualties (Austin Statesman)
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