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Monday, November 26, 2007

The War May be the Least of Our Problems: Suicide in the Military; CBS Reports
Posted by Melina | 10:07 AM
Despite the best efforts of the department of defense, stories of a surge in veteran and active duty, in country, soldier suicides have plagued this war since we settled in for our long, long stay. Many have been presented as anecdotal, even though they really represented an alarming trend in what amounts to lack of treatment and understanding of what the problems of soldiers are going to be as this war winds on. Most Americans cant seem to focus for long on much these days, and the inability to view even a people magazine article as an indicator of a trend, leaves most regular people unprepared for the real sacrifices that are going to be necessary and the ground work being laid. Surely the care of thousands of depressed and PTSD citizens is not part of the grand budgeting for this war.

In this new world, where we are told to go shopping rather than make any vague sort of sacrifice, where we are not allowed to see even photographs of caskets being offloaded from military transports, where most communities are ill-prepared for their damaged brothers and sisters return to normal life, something is gonna have to give.

Now comes word that CBS has done that rare thing which we see so seldom these days from our media conglomerates; they actually did some research and dug up some information ...and then even reported a real story. So odd was this phenomenon that the method is part of the story, in that they first took the numbers from the states, then took the military numbers...then...then...Its all very fascinating and I hope that it gets huge ratings so that other M$M reporters might look up from their daily briefing from the White House, get off their asses, and look critically at some independent statistics.

According to Alternet CBS has uncovered some hidden statistics that the counters would prefer that we not know in this time of "the surge is working," (if you don't count the "crime" shootings in the front of the head, or was that the sectarian shootings in the back of the head?) Our brave soldiers are committing suicide at an alarming rate. We are talking about 120 dead per week, which is an average of 17 every day!

Anyone that has ever dealt with mental illness of any sort; PTSD, depression, or suicidal ideology, can tell you that an attempted or completed suicide comes from a place of complete and utter pain, such despair and desolation, a break from reality, and that it is not a situation usually where someone hasn't at least tried to get some relief in other ways. Blame it on the anti-malaria drug, the war, or any number of factors, the numbers are going up and regardless of the cause, its a problem that belongs to us all.

The fact that the veterans administration is not prepared for the physical injuries that this war has wrought is well documented, but the real rub here is going to be the numbers of psychologically damaged soldiers returning on top of those that are here already, that are not being treated properly, if they can be treated at all, and who are going to overwhelm a system that is unprepared for this. With the VA backlog already in the millions, how is this problem going to play out in our cities and towns? There is no money for this...there are not enough trained professionals at the ready, there is a lack of mental health care on the ground in Iraq, when some of this could be caught early, and the line snakes around the corner and back again.

The hot career path of the future may well be in mental health, folks. This is not the stuff of take a Prozac and feel better. This is not social anxiety like on the commercials. Its debilitating and disabling, and the cure is not simple. The numbers are bad enough right now, but the stories of the government propping up and shipping out anyone who isn't actively cutting their wrists on their way to the airport, are troubling, to say the least.

Meanwhile, many of those who are able to get enough help to at least document their problems, are dismissed as having "personal problems" rather than any reaction to the war, violence, long deployments and redeployment's, and a different type of percussive head injury that is probably not fully understood yet. I could also imagine that anyone in the position of having volunteered as a reservist and then realized that they were going into war, untrained for the most part, unequipped, and that the tours have been extended and are going to be repeated, might feel quite a bit of helplessness and despair. Add to that the ongoing grind of an ill conceived war that has had our forces clearing one area and then moving on, only to have to come back to the same area again...in other words, there are not enough forces there to hold any part of what they are able to clear.The frustration of risking your life every day for a policing operation that never ends, is some sort of nightmare; you roll the boulder up the hill and it rolls back down...forever...At some point it must be nice to be someone who can embrace the talking points and follow orders blindly, but it must be pretty damned hard for anyone over there right now not to see whats happening on the ground.

We can only extrapolate from CBS's numbers that many, many active duty soldiers are feeling really badly...and I mean that in a dangerous sense. How many depressed and suicidal soldiers are out there as important parts of squadrons on patrol? How many armed veterans are walking around at home with unaddressed despair?
Our unpreparedness and obvious inability to treat the epidemic of PTSD and depression in the military is not only inhuman treatment of society's bravest members, but it is actual torture. What are we going to do when the military, lacking resources to deal with this problem, is flooded with returnees? What of the outsourced army who definitely have the same sorts of problems? What are we gonna do?

c/p RIPCoco

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