Suicide. Explain it to me, because I don’t get it. What brings a person to the point of taking their own life. I don’t understand what the common thread that binds those soldiers that have killed themselves or is it some implication that we are simply correlating on them. Perhaps the ones that have taken their lives would have done it anyway. The VA has tried that thought process stating that 20-25 is when men typically present with personality disorders. I have to call bullshit though, there is no way that those guys were simply gonna do it anyway.
So then it falls to PTSD or does it? Could it perhaps be the culture of the modern military, we are quick to kill and fast to not care about it. Our PTSD comes from our losses not theirs. Perhaps we have been taught to kill so well that we do it quickly without hesitation. Our generation is accustomed to danger and death. So many of our ranks have shown incredible bravery, running into hostile fire or braving booby trapped roads, houses, and fields. There was no hesitation, consideration of the repercussions, no pause when it was time to kill. Bring that home when it comes to an emotionally compromised person that ability to kill swings into action and without pause, consideration of the risk or repercussions, pull the trigger.
So its the culture thats killing them? What about the supposed cure or treatment. I have long felt that the suicide prevention approach of the army particularly is ass-backwards. They turned it into a form of buddy aid, the responsibility of suicide prevention falls to the buddies and the supervisor. This seems counter-intuitive to me. It also makes the suicidal person not only helpless and hopeless but removes the responsibility for their own actions from them. While this wouldn’t work for most populations, the military population is different. We don’t need hand-holding and stroking. We need purpose and a challenge. It is my belief that these service-members who are struggling would benefit from being shown how much they are needed, take away their ability to self-pity because others need them. This is a common value found in all service members, we will give of ourselves until it kills us or heals us. I feel that those that are feeling lost, those that are feeling desperate, should volunteer to go help others. Be shown that what happened then doesn’t influence now. Remind them that they are living for their brothers and sisters who can not. Show them that they can make a positive impact, transitioning from taking life to saving lives.
In my very limited experience in the hospital I have felt this feeling of purpose and sudden solidification of motivation. Save a life, help a helpless person, make a dying person smile and forget their pain for a millisecond, erase the smallest iota of bad karma that is etched on your soul. Save a life and honor the lives lost over there. Beyond that, find that meaning, that purpose, the niche that all veterans must find when coming home. Few will be as rewarding as saving life and it is something that veterans are distinctly prepared for.
That phrase,”From taking life to saving life” I have used it a lot. Its how I describe why I am in nursing school, probably helped me get into the school in the first place, I used it in the interview process. My words I recently found echoed in a marine who recently took his life or perhaps his words echoed in me, or maybe its a common trend. I didn’t know him, but he was a great man judging by those who mourn him. He had this same idea I do about challenging the vet, not coddling them. One of his friends commented, “God must be in one hell of a fight because he keeps taking the greatest Marines.”
One final thought, it maybe historically incorrect but are we not the first generation to come back from war and the vast majority of us remain in the military to continue being a service member for a couple of years. A lot of Vietnam veterans, to my understanding were drafted and when they came home, they were done and walked away. WWII, had an even more prolific exodus of military service members. The key factor… they got away from the uniform! Show me another form of trauma where day in day out, you are constantly not only reminded of the trauma but also live in it. We are volunteers that sign multi-year contracts and do multiple tours inside that time. When we come home, we are more or less held hostage by our contract, if you were suffering and are having this feeling of being trapped, suddenly suicide starts creeping in and the next thing you know, bam. In Dan’s ideal world and military, tours would be offset, not necessarily by time off but by humanitarian missions. If you did a trip to afghan, you would come home, had down time, and then were sent to south america or some other place for a month to provide aide, then you could be eligible to do another combat tour. Bad karma and good karma getting balanced. But that will never happen. No we come home, prisoners of our minds and guilt and contracts.
Geez, I am a downer today, just frustrated, sorry.