Suicide is not a subject that many people want to discuss, however given the huge numbers of service men and women who are dying, not in combat, but from suicide, we need to not only discuss it but to work long and hard to prevent it.
We know about the active suicides to some extent. These are the ones where they are found with a gun in their hand and a last note written to friends or family. These are bad enough, but what I have been thinking a lot about are the passive suicides. These are the ones where the will to live is lost. Even though there may be no gun involved, there is a certain intent to come to an end of the current existence in some way. Often I believe it is not so much the though of “I want to die” but of “I cannot live like this”.
If we acknowledge that suicide, any suicide, is the result of stressors being way larger than the ability to cope, then we see that death, whether active or passive, could be viewed as the only possible option.
Standing on the outside, it is hard to know what goes on in someone else’s mind. It would be easy to say that there are many other options other than death. However, these same stressors can prevent anyone from being able to see the other options or being able to act on them, even if they are there. This is one reason why family support is so very important in suicide prevention.
I do have to say though, after dealing with the VA for so many years, I wonder how they believe that the options given to some of our service personnel could result in anything other than a desire to die, either quickly with a gun, or slowly in a passive way. I see such things as depression and lack of good pain control as being two huge hurdles that so many Vets have to deal with. Vets are expects to ‘suck it up’ and try and live with or ignore the pain and this is not only physical pain but also emotional pain. Being able to ‘suck it up’ is possible for most of us on a short term basis. Most of our Vets are dealing with this over the long term. Living in constant pain becomes so wearing that almost any alternative would be a relief. I know there are Veterans who believe that their family would be better off if they were gone. Their spouse would get over it and find happiness with someone else. Many Vets try and alleviate the pain and depression with alcohol or illegal drugs. Once these enter the picture, rational thought is distorted and suicide may seem to be the best or only choice.
There is also another and darker aspect to the medications that so many Vets are given. Veterans who indicate depression are almost guaranteed to be given an antidepressant. The problem is that so many antidepressants actually make things worse rather than better, and can cause someone to take their own life.
I do not think that the VA takes this seriously enough. They do not pay enough attention to the things that they are doing, or in many cases not doing, which causes someone to think of suicide.
I do not have any magic answer for this but I do know that unless we bring this out into the open and discuss it, we are going to lose a lot of valuable human beings whose lives will be cut short far too soon.