Desire to END PAIN is the factor behind many SUICIDES and SUICIDE ATTEMPTS
How To Save A Life: Advice on How To Prevent Veteran Suicide and More
Veterans and service members sometimes face another battle: thoughts about taking their own lives. In a study conducted at Fort Carson, Colorado, 72 soldiers said that they attempted suicide because they wanted to end their intense distress.
A desire to end pain is the factor behind many suicides and suicide attempts. Grief, shame, rage, guilt, and feelings of worthlessness are common among people who kill themselves or attempt to do so.
According to the Pentagon, suicide rates in the military are highest among those who are separated or divorced, as the rate is 19 people per 100,000.
Divorce is also linked to suicides among civilians. Not only are divorced and separated men almost 2.4 times more likely to kill themselves than married men, but divorced men are over eight times more likely than divorced women.
Many veterans have risk factors for suicide. Many have experienced or witnessed violence or other traumatic events, or may be grieving the deaths or injuries of people close to them.
Even if their military discharges were honorable, they may still be major upheavals in veterans lives. If permanent injuries caused their discharges, Purple Hearts and other medals can’t heal the pain and suffering they’ve experienced.
While members of the military are required to return government property such as weapons and firearms when they leave the service, veterans could easily acquire other weapons. They also have the knowledge to use them correctly, which can be deadly.
How to reduce factors that could lead to suicide
In 2019 alone, suicides killed 6,261 U.S. veterans. While this number was lower than previous years, it was higher than the 5,989 veterans who took their own lives in 2001. The number of veteran suicides hasn’t dropped below 6,000 since 2008. Risk factors for suicide in veterans include traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), anxiety, and sexual dysfunction linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Some soldiers with PTSD use prescription medications such as benzodiazepines (benzos). But using such medications can double users’ risk of suicide. Using opioids to control pain also puts a veteran at risk. Veterans who have a substance abuse disorder of any kind are more than twice as likely to kill themselves compared to veterans who do not.
A 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) survey reveals some tips for reducing suicide. It indicates that people can improve their health and wellness by:
- Exercising regularly.
- Eating nutritious food.
- Employing stress management techniques.
- Engaging in positive relationships.
Such practices lead not only to better physical health, but better mental health as well. Improving one’s overall health may reduce the likelihood of suicide and other conditions.
Since suicide is a problem with multiple causes, there may be multiple ways to solve it. Other government initiatives are trying to prevent it.
The White House has outlined five priorities for stopping suicide among veterans and active military service members. The priorities include:
- Reducing access to lethal means.
- Increasing access to crisis care.
- Facilitating care transition.
- Addressing risk factors.
- Coordinating, sharing, and evaluating research and data.
How to SAVE a life
Signs of suicidal thoughts to recognize.
Ask the question, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
Validate the veteran’s experience.
Encourage treatment and help the veteran find assistance.
Warning signs of suicide could include withdrawing from friends and family, increasing drug and alcohol use, and exhibiting mood swings and risky behavior. A suicidal person may talk about death or dying.
Asking about suicide will not give a person ideas about killing themselves. Ask questions in a calm and natural way. Whatever the person tells you, listen and take them seriously. Don’t judge, but do assure the person that there are ways to handle their problems that don’t involve harming themselves.
They just might want someone to listen. They might need more.
In any case, don’t leave them alone. If the situation is an emergency, call 911. Otherwise, call the confidential Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.
How real-life veterans have coped
Many veterans find their own ways to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions. Prince Harry served two tours in Afghanistan in the Royal Army. Coming home is often a cause for celebration, but for Harry, returning to London was a return to the intense media attention he has received his entire life, especially after his mother’s untimely death.
To cope with trauma and anxiety, he has participated in eye movement desensitization and reprogramming (EMDR) therapy. EMDR is a therapeutic approach aimed to reduce distress by asking people to focus their eye movements and recall disturbing events.
Another veteran, director Ishiro Honda, was a prisoner of war (POW) in China during World War II and returned to Japan to see the remains of Hiroshima. He said he threw himself into filmmaking to save his sanity. In his most famous film, nuclear fears are embodied by a gigantic monster with atomic heat breath. Honda called it the creature Gojira, but English speakers know it as Godzilla.
Suicide is a different kind of monster, but it can also be stopped. If you or your loved one is a veteran struggling with PTSD, depression, or other mental illness, help is always available.
medicalnewstoday.com – Why Do People Commit Suicide?
msrc.fsu.edu – Study Reveals Top Reason Behind Soldiers’ Suicides
jech.bmj.com – Divorce and Suicide Risk
onceasoldier.org – 2021 VA Veteran Suicide Report
research.va.gov – VA Research on Suicide Prevention
healio.com – Benzodiazepine Users with PTSD More Likely to Attempt, Complete Suicide
whitehouse.gov – Fact Sheet: New Strategy Outlines Five Priorities for Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide
mentalhealth.va.gov – Suicide Prevention
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Huntington Beach, California
veteranscrisisline.net – 24/7, Confidential Crisis Support
samaritans.org – Myths About Suicide
nbcwashington.com – DC Doctor Discusses EMDR Therapy Prince Harry Mentioned in New Docuseries
filmcompanion.in – More Than Just a Monster Movie: Revisiting Ishiro Honda’s Tragic, Elegiac Godzilla (1954)