Why Veterans Commit Suicide
Heard a story about this new bill working its way through Congress called “The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for America Veterans Act” on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. This bill calls for independent evaluations of all mental health-care and suicide-prevention programs in VA and the Defense Department, a student loan repayment program that would offer up to $120,000 per year to recruit psychiatrists who commit to working for VA, and a program that would take back unneeded prescription drugs from patients at VA facilities. Now while all this may sound good and is needed much of it is actually worthless in solving the problem of veteran suicide. Clay Hunt’s mother said that after he finally got in to see a psychiatric, he called her and said that he was not going back, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and other veterans groups believe to solve this problem VA needs more psychiatrist. Both completely ignoring the fact that more psychiatrists may not be the answer if they are going to be of the same mind as the one Clay Hunt visited before his death. They ignore that the psychiatrist plainly sucked at the job and probably had no earthly idea what Clay was even talking about. The psychiatrist was probably more interested in getting a rebate from the drug company for prescribing their drugs than actually fixing the problem and felt that being required to take a few minutes out of his/her very busy day was far too much to ask only to babysit veterans. Take a step into any of your local VA clinics and just watch the receptionist. You will get a clear understanding of what I mean.
Many do it because it is better than harming another human being. Many because the world that they envisioned coming back to in not the world that they come back to. The neighborhood they left has changed and is even worse than they remember it. They signed up to make life better for all, they come back to see it has gotten worse. The neighborhood who could disagree but still stand by you if you are ever in need, now not only sticks the knife deeper into your back but twists it to create more damage and make sure you do not survive. They jeopardize their own safety for a few dollars more and will violate even God’s law by bearing false witness if it is going to better their status or bring in a little bit of the green.
Why veterans commit suicide is of all the pain and anguish they have witnessed, nothing would do their heart better and help them more by doing as much good as possible but just doing good has not proven to be enough. They need to see good being done. Before they put on that uniform or signed that contract, the constant barrage of bad then worse news never seemed to faze them but after seeing more horror than Stephen King, the horror of how we treat one another sticks in their heads like tiny but strong pins and they cannot make them stop. Nothing helps, not family, not friends, not government and definitely not medicine. The more you endure, the less civil you become and the more frightened it makes you. It frightens you because you are much more aware of your talents that anyone else and for so long these talents were used for good but you are now beginning to feel a very strong tug to the dark side. You see people losing freedoms that you sacrificed for like their right to vote and no one does anything about it. You see women being told that they are not smart enough to know what’s good for them and no one does anything about it. You see people who are struggling continue to struggle while those with the most rakes in even more and no one do anything about it. You hear how much this country appreciates you but it does not bear out when you seek help from VA and get a bunch of civilians who hate their jobs and could truly care less about you and no one does anything about it. But instead of gathering a weapon, climbing atop of some building and just sniping people as they walk by we say no to that demon. Instead of bombing the offices of those who have failed us, we say no to that demon. Instead of turning this ever increasing desire to harm onto others, we say no to this demon. Then we say yes to another, the demon who convinces us that it is better to die alone than it is to suffer alone.
Or maybe, just maybe the 20 plus veterans who commit suicide may have something else in common. Maybe those who take their own lives do so because they are not quite as familiar with adversity as others who don’t. Maybe they were raised in more of a “Leave It to Beaver” type situation where life was not a struggle and those surrounding them appeared to have just the normal worries similar to a “Stafford Wives” thing. Maybe they were used to see a neighborhood come together and everyone they knew never had to worry about where their next meal was coming from. Maybe minimum wage was only just a phrase they heard on television and if these words were ever used in public, it was shortly followed by the Shhh sound. Maybe they were so used to things going their way and having what they considered, more control over their environment that when it became clear that people praise them on certain days and at certain times but ignores them the rest of it, it was too much. I mean consider this; you have military people in the congress like recently elected Joni Ernst who seem to have forgotten what military service means. She seems to have forgotten that we do not bear false witness, that we do not campaign for violence, that we do not make claims that is not true. She seemed to have forgotten that with that uniform comes a requirement for integrity, honor and valor. Surely being of military background would endure those characteristics to everyone right? Maybe this proved to be the stressor for those used to not seeing the bad unless it was on television.
Either way though, I think it still brings us back to the worthless psychiatrist that VA has or look to add. Tell you what would help much better. Spend that $120,000 per year and hire veterans to counsel with veterans. Not only would you reduce the unemployment numbers of veterans but you would give them a chance to help those that they may have served with. You would also give that veteran someone to talk to who knows what they are saying and you would restore the veteran’s dignity both of the counselor and the one seeking help. I mean let’s think about VA’s record with helping veterans so far. They got the definition of PTSD wrong, thinking it was only about combat veterans and even after being corrected, their efforts never changed. They did not modify their procedures at all. They are currently staffed with civilians who may just be run down and do not like their jobs anymore. It may just be a burden for them to get up and come to work and if you think for one second that a veteran cannot feel that you are delusional. To pass a bill forcing VA to check how effective their suicide prevention services are is a total waste of money because it is obvious if 20 plus veterans are dying daily. A simpleton can tell you just from that bit of knowledge, it isn’t working. Want to help, pass a bill that says if a veteran serves more than 4 years active duty, they are then entitled to a pension which may not be much, like 500 bucks a month, but it keeps him/her from being hungry, homeless, and helpless when they get out. Pass a bill that says a verified copy of your DD-214 is all you need to receive a valid driver’s license, work permit, go to school or apply for a job. There used to be a time, where veterans did not have to worry about finding a job because the United States Postal Service was always hiring veterans and moving them to the top of the list, that’s not the same now and possibly soon even the post office may be owned by Fed Ex or UPS.
The world is changing and to survive you must change with it but for a veteran returning home after surviving military service, this transition is never easy. If you want to help, pay close attention to your veteran; listen to what he/she says and how they say it. They do not want nor need your pity, pitying them can kill. What they require and desire is understanding and if you find yourself not quite being able to understand, stop and ask somebody. That’s how you help and this is how we can bring down that veteran suicide number. Anything else is spitting in the wind and we all know what happens when we do that. The spit tends to come crashing back in your face.