27 April 2010

The Hidden Toll : 18 Veteran Suicides Every Day

Image from The Public Record.

Real cost of war:
Shocking suicide rate among vets

By Ted McLaughlin / The Rag Blog / April 27, 2010

We tend to hear about the United States soldiers that are killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thankfully that number has gone down in the last few months. That has given many Americans the false impression that these two unnecessary wars are not costing many American lives these days. Sadly, that is just not true.

It's just that the cost of these wars on the lives of American soldiers and veterans is more hidden now, because most of the lives lost now is in this country -- through suicide. But it is still directly attributable to service in Iraq and Afghanistan. These two wars are still costing this country a shocking number of American lives each and every day.

According to an article published in the Army Times on April 26, 2010, there is an average of 950 suicide attempts by veterans every month -- and about 7% of those attempts are successful. Among those who fail, 11% will make a second attempt within nine months. They say that about 18 veterans commit suicide every day (and five of those are receiving VA care).

The data shows that there is a lower rate of suicide among those who are receiving VA care than among those who are not. The VA is trying to strengthen it's suicide prevention programs and the VA figures they save about 250 lives each month through VA treatment. The VA suicide prevention hotline receives about 10,000 calls each month from current and former members of our military.

I commend the VA for their efforts and for the lives they are able to save, but obviously much more needs to be done. They not only need to increase their outreach to include many veterans not currently receiving care, but they also need to increase the quality and effectiveness of the care they are giving (because five suicides a day among those receiving treatment is just too many).

But the greatest need is to end these evil and unnecessary wars -- immediately! While deaths may have gone down on the battlefield (although there are still too many), at 18 suicides a day the wars are still costing us way too many American lives. And this won't stop until we stop putting our brave soldiers, both male and female, through the horrors of war (and will probably continue for months or years after the wars end).

The truth is that we are accomplishing nothing in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we are paying an awful price for these failures in nation-building. Let's end it. Now.

[Rag Blog contributor Ted McLaughlin also posts at jobsanger.]

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