Edmonds Military Wire: More troops die by own hand than by enemy

By Michael Schindler

The latest news from the Pentagon is not good. Suicides among U.S. military personnel are at their highest rate in years; the latest official figures show that 154 troops on active duty killed themselves in the first 155 days of 2012. This is an 18-percent increase over 2011’s same time figures of 130 and we are 16 percent ahead of 2009 figures, which resulted in the highest annual suicide rate among active duty.

More servicemembers have died by their own hand this year – 50 percent more to be exact – than have died serving combat operations in Afghanistan.

The causes of the increase are hard to establish, but frequent deployments, misuse of prescribed medication and financial pressures are suspect.

Time’s Battleland blog suggests that what it calls the suicide “epidemic” could be connected to the lengthy combats in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have seen a relatively small number of U.S. troops sent back for multiple tours of duty.

The Pentagon’s Defense Suicide Prevention Office, Jackie Garrick, told the Associated Press that the economic recession could be a factor in this year’s high suicide rate, which comes even as U.S. deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down.

Bottom line: One suicide, whether active duty or a veteran, is one too many. Our men and women need a healthy dose of hope and a mission with purpose.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, having suicidal thoughts or slowing withdrawing into isolation, contact the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential help at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

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.

  1. I’m shocked and very saddened to read this news. I just finished reading the Lions of Kandahar book and was so touched by the bravery, compassion, dedication, and skills of our troups as described by Major Rusty Bradley. How can we help?

  2. What this situation presents is opportunity for every community in America, including Edmonds. We are faced with a national problem that has a very local face…veterans are moving into our communities as we need to be prepared.

    Not borrowing the president’s catch phrase, but HOPE is key. Today’s veteran is looking for transparent leadership and a fair chance to prove him/herself in today’s work place. Not every service member has PTSD. And even those that do, many can still perform exceptionally when given proper direction and a sense of purpose.

    Is your church ready to embrace the more than 1 million troops that will be returning to our communities in the next 5 years? What about your company or business? Be a friend.

    We have an opportunity to make a difference – to learn more, come visit us at Operation Military Family.

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