The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 7, 2013

Military deserves our help in suicide prevention

Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — War may be the opposite of heaven, but coming home is no cakewalk, either.

More soldiers committed suicide than died in combat last year, according to Department of Defense data.

The DOD reports 177 active-duty soldiers killed themselves, compared to 176 soldiers killed in Operation Enduring Freedom. (That’s not even counting December of last year.)

That statistic is staggering, and this epidemic simply needs to end.

Suicide is a consistent problem with the U.S. military, and it’s getting worse. The Army’s suicide rate increased nearly 10 percent since launching a suicide-prevention campaign in 2009, according to NBC News.

Here in Oklahoma, an airman 1st class hanged himself July 31 in a Tinker Air Force Base dorm, according to The Oklahoman.

Besides post-traumatic stress, problems with finances, health or relationships take their toll on returning soldiers, according to The Associated Press.

Male Gulf War-era II veterans aged 18 to 24 had an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A rate that high is unacceptable.

One hundred percent of soldier suicide attempts were motivated “to stop bad feelings,” according to a report from the National Center for Veterans Studies. Also, emotional relief was endorsed in every assessed attempt in the study.

Orientation for families is crucial as soldiers are reintroduced to civilian life. We can’t stress enough the importance of vigilantly listening and caring for loved ones returning from the battlefield.

Most people tell a friend before committing suicide, so take this conversation seriously. The Army recommends asking about the plan and finding out the reason behind it. Listen and be honest, then take the person to a counselor, doctor or spiritual guide.

The military’s helpline is (800) 273-TALK.

Do all you can for those being all they can be.