Djcnor’s Weblog

More Suicides than Combat Deaths: Something’s Wrong in Iraq and Afghanistan

Posted on: February 6, 2009

In the news is the story that recently US armed forces have lost more soldiers to suicide than to war zone violence. I know that part of this has to be due to the low numbers of deaths in the combat zones, but still the deaths due to suicide have risen sharply. In fact, this month’s total for the Army is highest since they began keeping records in 1980.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/06/us/06suicide.html?ref=us

What is happening to our soldiers that they can’t live with afterward? The only explanation offered is that soldiers hesitate to seek or accept psychiatric help. Why? Are they so indoctrinated with the idea that it would be weak to do that? Do they consider suicide the strong thing to do? Are they so aware of what a history of having needed such help would do to their future chances of employment? If so, then that the fault of civilian employers and the attitudes of the rest of the public.

This simply should not happen. And I do not understand why the armed forces have no better explanation. These problems along with the tendency of discharged soldiers to end up among the homeless is just the beginning of yet another long-term cost of Bush’s wars.

The overwhelming cause of suicide is untreated depression, and depression is often caused by several negative life experiences in succession (along with a genetic vulnerability). There has been considerable research on the genetics of  depression, and in fact, specific genes have been identified. Since having a series of negative life experiences is bound to occur for soldiers sent for long stays in war zones, experiences which extend afterward in the stresses of readjustment, I see no reason why the armed forces should not test recruits for such genes and either assign duties in accord with them or reject those having the genes as recruits. At the very least, treatment should be a given. It will save money as well as lives in the long run.

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Djcnor’s Weblog

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