Thursday, November 15, 2007
The report concluded with an appeal about the need to address the mental health needs of these veterans when they return home. Predictably, the superior alternative of refusing to send them to places like Iraq and Afghanistan to brutalize the populace wasn't mentioned. Nor was the possibility that some of these people are experiencing impaired mental health precisely because of the horrors they experienced.
. . So CBS News did an investigation - asking all 50 states for their suicide data, based on death records, for veterans and non-veterans, dating back to 1995. Forty-five states sent what turned out to be a mountain of information.
And what it revealed was stunning.
In 2005, for example, in just those 45 states, there were at least 6,256 suicides among those who served in the armed forces. That’s 120 each and every week, in just one year.
Dr. Steve Rathbun is the acting head of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department at the University of Georgia. CBS News asked him to run a detailed analysis of the raw numbers that we obtained from state authorities for 2004 and 2005.
It found that veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide in 2005 than non-vets. (Veterans committed suicide at the rate of between 18.7 to 20.8 per 100,000, compared to other Americans, who did so at the rate of 8.9 per 100,000.)
One age group stood out. Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror. They had the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times higher than civilians the same age. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)
"Wow! Those are devastating," said Paul Sullivan, a former VA analyst who is now an advocate for veterans rights from the group Veterans For Common Sense.
No wonder the US military is relying increasingly upon air strikes in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Putting our troops into direct contact with the people of these countries through combat, checkpoints, house searches, detentions and torture, with rules of engagement that permit the use of indiscriminate force, appears to be, quite literally, killing them, even after they return home. Perhaps, the incipient symptoms of dismay and mental disorder also partially explains why many troops are conducting search and avoid operations.