Here’s a weird thing. A friend of a friend of mine had a husband in the military. She (FoF) started making comments on her Facebook page that people should send pictures of her husband so that her children would have mementos by which they would be able to remember him. Oddly, she never actually wrote that he had died.
So I began searching. I discovered that the most comprehensive listing of those who were killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I could find is provided by MilitaryTimes.com, “honoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.”
But, as it turned out, he didn’t die in battle. He was stateside and had committed suicide. Apparently, after a third tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, it was just too much.
From this ABC NEWS story:
The increase in suicide deaths is one of the most distressing issues facing military leaders who want to reduce the rates among active-duty service members. More than 2,000 of them have killed themselves in the past decade [PDF], including 295 last year compared with 153 in 2001.
Despite their best suicide-prevention efforts, reducing the number of military suicides has been a frustrating challenge, military leaders acknowledged [in September 2011] at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. Recent efforts have included increasing at-risk service members’ access to mental health professionals, while reducing the stigma attached to mental health care. Internet outreach, including “video chats,” has also shown some promise.
The difficulty, however, is in identifying which initiatives work best and deciphering the multiple triggers that can lead to suicide within the armed services, which accounts for a small fraction of the total number of people who serve.
Despite my lack of understanding of the reasons for going to war, I feel real grief over the sheer despair these men and women must have been going through to take their own lives. Here’s hoping that the Telehealth programs now being used by the military can stem the tide of these horrible losses.