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Military Connection: Reducing Military Suicides

Suicide-Prevention-Graphic-2011-v21

By Debbie Gregory

President Barack Obama has signed a bill that aims to reduce suicides among Veterans, active-duty and reserve component troops. The statistics, which have been considered a national tragedy, have been on the rise for more than a decade.

A study released by the Pentagon shows that high-risk soldiers improved with intense behavioral therapy, and had substantially reduced suicide attempts. The study included 152 active-duty soldiers who either had either attempted suicide or were found to be high risk. Those who were given a form of cognitive-behavior therapy did better than their counterparts, who received a more typical form of therapy.

Co-investigator of the study, Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Alan Peterson, professor of psychiatry at the UT Health Science Center’s School of Medicine in San Antonio, and retired Army Col. Carl Castro, research director of USC’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families, agreed that this research is ground breaking. “It is the first-ever suicide prevention intervention showing that a brief treatment protocol can significantly reduce future suicide attempts,” says Castro.

Psychiatric diagnoses have skyrocketed more than 60 % since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began. More than 4,400 troops have killed themselves over the past 11 years, leaving the military plagued by suicides and increasing psychological problems since 9/11. The number of suicides is quickly approaching the number of U.S. troops killed in the long Iraq war, which stands at 4,489.

The 152 soldiers who participated in the study conducted at Fort Carson, CO, were lower-ranking Anglo men, which reflected the Army’s demographic, and were also similar in other categories that ranged from psychiatric diagnoses to the use of medications. The results could be, as Peterson said “the biggest, most important thing that has happened in suicide research in the military, certainly in the last 10 years, and maybe longer than that.”

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Reducing Military Suicides: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Combatting Mental Health Issues

 

By Debbie Gregory

Approximately one in five adults- more than 40 million Americans- suffer with a diagnosable mental condition, such as depression or anxiety. When the statistics are this high, does it make sense to place a negative stigma on Veterans suffering from PTSD or other mental illnesses upon their return to civilian life?

Michelle Obama was a participant in the Joining Forces initiative for Give an Hour’s conference at the Newseum. Give an Hour is a great non-profit, made up of mental health professionals who provide free counseling to the troops, Veterans, and family members who have been affected by war. The first lady hopes this will help eliminate the stigma attached to seeking help for mental-health issues.

For some reason, mental health issues are often perceived differently from diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or asthma. “That makes no sense,” the first lady said. “Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness. So there should be absolutely no stigma around mental health. None. Zero.”

Mrs. Obama stresses that it is time to “flip the script” on mental health in this country. “It’s time. It’s time to tell everyone who’s dealing with a mental health issue that they’re not alone, and that getting support and treatment isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.”

Not all Veterans are plagued with mental-health issues, but the Veterans who do struggle need support.

The First Lady shared one Veteran’s story. Ryan Rigdon, a Navy Veteran, deployed twice to Iraq to disarm enemy bombs. In Baghdad, Ryan came across a camouflaged IED that was live. While didn’t have his protective suit on, he knew the device could explode at any time. So he flipped it over and disarmed it with his bare hands.

After this, he began to experience extreme emotional highs and lows, severe headaches, ringing in his ears, and panic attacks. Once he was out of the military and back to civilian life, he faced additional struggles with his family, a sick child, and unemployment.

After hitting rock bottom and a contemplating suicide, Rigdon was encouraged to seek help. He connected with Give an Hour through the Veterans Affairs Department.

“In Ryan’s story we hear the story of far too many of our veterans: – the struggle to adjust to a new life [and] the terrors and anxieties that just won’t go away, even when they’re back home, safe in their own beds,” the first lady said.

Give an Hour is co-sponsoring the Campaign to Change Direction with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA will provide subject-matter expertise and will coordinate federal outreach through the Veterans Affairs, Defense and Health and Human Services department.

For more information, please visit http://www.giveanhour.org.

MilitaryConnection.com is a proud media sponsor for both Give an Hour and the Campaign to Change Direction.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Combatting Mental Health Issues: By Debbie Gregory