The suicide rate of active duty military members is up to about one a day. When we add this to the 18 veteran suicides a day that have been documented over the past few years we should be horrified. One a day in active service is an unacceptable loss, 19 a day between active military and veterans is an unspeakable horror.
According to the Associated Press, Pentagon statistics reflect that the 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan by about 50 percent more.
According to the Associated Press, “The 2012 active-duty suicide total of 154 through June 3 compares to 130 in the same period last year, an 18 percent increase. And it’s more than the 136.2 suicides that the Pentagon had projected for this period based on the trend from 2001-2011. This year’s January-May total is up 25 percent from two years ago, and it is 16 percent ahead of the pace for 2009, which ended with the highest yearly total thus far.”
Seriously folks, how can this continue like this? We have known for years – no scratch that – we have known for decades (since World War II) of the crushing mental health damage combat and the thought of combat can cause in troops. We have lost soldiers during, and after, every conflict to suicide. This is not a new phenomenon. This is not new news. This is a tragedy that has affected tens of thousands of families.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appears to finally be getting on the page regarding suicides (at least active military suicides). “Last month he sent an internal memo to the Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders in which he called suicide “one of the most complex and urgent problems” facing the Defense Department,” per the Associated Press. In the memo Panetta addressed the stigma in the military associated with seeking help for mental health issues.
I am pissed off at Panetta. His internal memo is far too little and far too late for so many families who have lost loved ones to suicide. How is it that we can mobilize troops, equip them with cutting edge weaponry, and transport them around the world to fight for the ideals of this country, but we can’t manage the appropriate mental health care and veteran services necessary to prevent this suicide epidemic?
I am sickened by this state of affairs. This is a stain on our country’s soul – a festering wound that disgraces all the things we are supposed to stand for. Why isn’t our government doing more than just issuing internal memos? Why isn’t this a priority? Why do they talk enough about it to be able to project suicide losses in active military members, but not enough to implement programs to address the issue? Why don’t they care?
The government’s lack of attention equates with gross negligence in my mind. The Department of Defense should be sued by every family that has lost a military member or veteran to suicide. They have known of the issues for years and they have not remediated them. There has been testimony before Congress, an appellate court decision, hundreds of reports and articles – plus they have the data in-house; yet, the situation has not been addressed.
We, the people, need to do something.
We need to demand action.
We need to ensure that members of the military and veterans get all the services they need both during and after their service to our country to go on to lead fulfilling lives.
This is madness and the losses are unacceptable.
Write, call, or email your elected representatives (get their contact info here) and demand action. Tell them if they won’t step up to stop this madness you will put people in office who will. Don’t let another day go by without saying ENOUGH!
One thousand and sixty-nine of the new forty – obla di obla da