While many military buzz words/phrases such as, “PTSD” and “22 a day” have circulated through headlines in the media over the past few years, what many thought was to raise awareness for the issue of suicide may be little more than false stereotypes.
Currently, the mantra of “veterans are killing themselves at a rate of 22 a day because of PTSD and the long wars in the Middle East” appears to be the popular opinion -with many jumping on the buzzword bandwagon in a misguided attempt at spreading awareness- but it may actually be detrimental to veterans.
A recent report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Psychiatry -a legitimate authority on the topic unlike CNN and Fox News- found that 61 percent of soldiers who attempted suicide had never been deployed.
“We found the highest rates of suicide attempts were among never-deployed soldiers and those in their first years of service,” said the report.
Furthermore, the research found that a soldier going to combat has little to do with putting them at risk of suicide.
Dr. Robert Ursano of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland told NBC news, “Actually, being in the Army was protective against suicide.”
He went on to say the suicide rate of the United States as a whole is typically double that of the Army.
The misconception that military suicide only affects the war-torn veterans does more harm than good, according to Sebastian Junger, the director of the famous Afghanistan war documentary, “Restrepo.”
During a Ted Talk in 2015, he stated, “We have all heard the tragic statistic of 22 vets a day on average in the country killing themselves. Most people don’t realize that the majority of those suicides are veterans of the Vietnam War, that generation and the decision to take their own lives actually might not be related to the war they fought 50 years earlier.”
“In fact there is no statistical connection between military and suicide.”
Junger does not blame combat -which he was seen more than his fair share- or the military for the increase in issues with veterans coming home. Instead, he blames society as a whole.
“Maybe the problem isn’t them, the vets, maybe it is us,” he said.
He refers back to his experiences with the Navajo Indians while he was writing his college thesis by saying: “Maybe if you come back to a close cohesive tribal society you can get over trauma pretty quickly. And if you come back to a modern alienating modern society you might remain traumatized your entire life.”
“As wealth goes up in society, the suicide rate goes up, instead of down.”
Junger claims that those whole live in modern society are eight times more likely to suffer from depression and suicide than those living in a poor society living off the land.
So, for those looking to help veterans, the best advice might be for them to focus on fixing society as a whole first.
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