27 November 2009

The greatest danger to troops in 2009?

US military service members killed in Afghanistan in 2009: 297
US military service members killed in Iraq in 2009: 144
US military service members who committed suicide in 2009: 334

Jamie McIntyre has further details at The Line of Departure, where he brings up two interesting notes regarding these figures. First, that the 334 number does not include veterans who committed suicide after leaving service. Secondly, that nearly 1/3 of the service members who committed suicide had not yet deployed to a combat environment, leading me to believe that the increase in suicides is attributable to far more than simply the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

2 comments:

Paul said...

I agree with you about the causes of suicide of those who have not yet deployed, but remember that the stress associated with going to war on people who are already depressed or otherwise at risk of a psychotic break is significant. Remember that guy Hasan down in Texas just recently? Clearly, there were other inputs into Hasan’s psychotic break but, from what I’ve read, he seemed to have more than “I don’t want to go because we’re killing Muslims” going on.

When I was in basic training in early ‘68, we had one attempted suicide in our company. The guy represents a classic case as far as I’m concerned: he shouldn’t have been in the Army to begin with; he was generally a fu*k-up in anything requiring coordinated physical activity — he tried hard but just couldn’t quite master things like shooting, the obstacle course, etc.; he was very depressed (the guys in his room said later that they couldn’t get his attention for hours after he’d curled up in a fetal position); he was always going on sick call; and he just kept falling further and further into a black hole. Finally, he slashed his wrists (couldn’t even do that right).

I also ran into a couple of cases of self-wounding once I got over to RVN — a shot to the foot was the favorite method.

Some people are just scared spitless that Something Bad is going to happen to them “over there” and can’t come to terms with it. I understand that pregnancy rates rise close to deployment dates but males don’t have that method of opting out available to them. Hence suicide.

The problem for the military is how do you tell the difference between the guy who is really at risk (whom you need to either get help for or get rid of) and the guy who is just malingering? Back then, it was automatically assumed that you were malingering — and it didn’t matter whether you were RA (volunteer) or US (draftee). I suspect that, at least informally, this is still the rule.

Sarah Sofia Ganborg said...

You've made good point here!
I must say, I'm having a really hard time with suicide cases anyway - I mean what the f#ck are they trying to do? You can either see it as chickening out, or worse: those a-holes are doing it with the intention of making the rest of us feel guilty.
- What a creepy and covert assault that in fact is!

But on the other hand I also think that the shrinks should stay out of the military, aid organizations and anywhere else in society where they can cause harm. Most suicide cases, shooters etc. have been on psych drugs and have had counseling - and what does that tell us? Obviously only that the shrinks haven't gotten a clue as to how to deal with people like that and that their profession can't come up with anything that works in real life!

Suicide cases are ethics cases. It's a disciplinary problem. Like Paul writes:"...generally a fu*k-up"! That's what these people are. Now I'm not that cruel that I would suggest beating the sh/t out of them, since that won't work either. But the compassionate thing would be to show them how to put their own ethics and self discipline in and how to handle the obstacles which they can't manage. Drugging them and rewarding them with sympathy are not things that do work in the real world!