The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported that in 2016 approximately 20 suicides among veterans were recorded each day. Some advocacy groups now place that number at 22 each day.
Often times, the hardest fought battle veterans face is returning to normal life. At certain times in our country’s history, most notably during the Vietnam era and seemingly over the last decade, civilian society and our government have not always given these courageous men and women our deserved attention and care.
Ask anyone who has lived through both Vietnam and the ongoing 16-year-long Global War on Terrorism to explain the parallels in our society, government and international foreign policy to those more than four decades ago.
Imagine risking life and limb for one’s country only to be greeted with a lack of empathy upon return. Imagine being a teenager drafted into a battlefield, growing up both mentally and physically in a place surrounded by violence and destruction. Imagine how a firework explosion can sound like a gunshot when the nightmares won’t go away and the scenes won’t stop replaying.
Now imagine coming back home to places where firearms are forbidden, where security is far less restrictive, where dozens of people can blend into crowds, where a brother or sister isn’t covering your blind spot.
The Lake Sun has shared dozens of our local military members histories, triumphs and darkest days via our Veterans Day 2017 special tab as well as daily features on the front page throughout this week; but it’s often the untold stories of tragedy years or decades later that go unreported.
Suicide rates among U.S. veterans are staggering. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported that in 2016 approximately 20 suicides among veterans were recorded each day. Some advocacy groups now place that number at 22 each day.
A comprehensive study released in 2017 reported that the suicide rate among middle-age and older adult veterans remains high. In 2014, approximately 65 percent of all veterans who died by suicide were age 50 or older.
These statistics tell us that these are veterans of the Vietnam War, arguably the most controversial event in the last half-decade as far as intense political and cultural opposition goes. It also tells us we haven’t done enough to meet their needs upon returning home. We still, sadly, read stories about the side effects of Agent Orange and nightmares of the jungles.
History tends to repeat itself. As we learn more and more about the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental and physical injuries to the brain caused by blunt forced trauma or emotional distress, we hope our current and future veterans do not face the same struggle for proper medical treatment or help when needed.
Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a veteran in crisis, can call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255.