The military’s mental health crisis is well known. An average of 22 veterans a day are committing suicide. Many are older veterans from the Vietnam War, Korea, and past conflicts.
Though this crisis is very much affecting active-duty troops as well, with horrifying new statistics.
It’s also impacting more recent veterans too. The horrific conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are still claiming many lives from despair and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Now, the Pentagon is taking steps to provide more resources for veterans who are struggling to continue as their mental health declines. Here’s what’s being done to take this problem much more seriously…
New Focus on Mental Health
The Pentagon is extremely concerned about how many veterans are taking their lives. The resources available for veterans and awareness are being scaled up.
Veterans such as Lieutenant Commander Dionne Williamson, 46, say military programs for therapy, including riding horses, have helped her avoid suicide.
After returning from Afghanistan a decade ago, Williamson said she felt “lost” and knew she needed help. It took quite a bit of bureaucracy and confusion to finally get that help, something Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said is being reviewed and upgraded this past March.
The suicide crisis is getting a lot worse, with active duty troops killing themselves by 40% more from 2015 to 2020. Just in 2020, suicide rates climbed by 15% among active duty military members.
This is especially true in places like Alaska, where the loneliness of troops on base has contributed to a 50% rise in suicides.
Suicide in the military is on the rise, especially among Army service members. Within the Army, nowhere is the crisis more evident than Alaska, which had the second highest suicide rate among states in 2020. https://t.co/QBWXQSanGv pic.twitter.com/gz7wyXxf9w
— USA TODAY Graphics (@usatgraphics) April 4, 2022
True Cost of the Mental Health Crisis Among Veterans
The true cost of the mental health crisis is extremely alarming. In the past two decades since the attacks of Sept. 11, the amount of non-combat deaths from suicide has been 400% higher than the number of deaths in active duty.
This huge amount of suicides and the 2011 steps taken to prevent it are not yet doing enough to stop the crisis.
Programs like the one used by Williamson are finally getting more attention and funding as well, but more still needs to be done to improve and fund them.
If you are a veteran or have a veteran in your life who is struggling, it’s crucial to watch out for the warning signs of PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
This includes self-isolating behaviors, difficulty in public places and open spaces, over-sensitivity to noises and sudden movements, and panic attacks.
If you are struggling, it’s very important to get help and start by acknowledging that everything is not OK. Remember that you are not alone.
You Are Not Alone.
If you or someone you know needs help now, please call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline — dial 988 and press 1 for the Military Crisis Line. pic.twitter.com/Am4E8bG0Dl
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) October 9, 2022
Caring for Each Other
Our veterans deserve the best care in the nation. If yourself or someone you happen to be aware of is having a hard time, please call or text the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
This article appeared in StatesmanPost and has been published here with permission.