Edmonds Military Wire: Will troop withdrawals lead to more suicides?

By Michael Schindler

The president recently announced that all U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by year-end. To some this is great news – especially for families back home. To others, the news is a bit alarming and shows more like a political move.

But the reality is, after nearly nine years since entering Iraq, the troops are coming home. The question now: Are we ready back home?

With more than a million jobless veterans at present and with more than a million expected to leave the military by 2016, some are strongly advocating education as the answer.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a tremendous benefit, but a benefit that only one in five veterans uses. So there is a push to increase enrollment, in hopes of increasing the benefit use despite the historically high veteran dropout rate. On an even more sobering note, a new study found that U.S. military veterans in college are at significantly greater risk of thinking about and attempting suicide than the general college student population.

Nearly half the veterans in the study said they had had suicidal thoughts at some point, and one-fifth said they had planned to kill themselves. The percentage of student veterans who said they had attempted suicide was six times higher than that of the general college student population.

“These alarming numbers underscore the urgent need for universities to be adequately staffed and prepared to assist and treat student veterans,” said study researcher M. David Rudd, of the University of Utah.

The question again: Are we ready back home? Rudd suggests an estimated 1 million veterans will enroll in college over the next decade.  Is our next “war” to keep these men and women alive when they return?

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include  “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.”  He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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