Culture of Stress: Why are service members taking their lives at such an alarming rate?

Culture of Stress: Why are service members taking their lives at such an alarming rate?, 31 July 2011, Patriot-News Op-Ed 

By: Mike Reid

 

Mike Reid, left, is shown with his father after returning from one of his deployments to Iraq. Reid grew up in the Harrisburg area and served in the Army for six years. He now lives in Georgia and works as a personal trainer

The most important thing to know about me is what I was doing during the years 2002 to 2008. In that time, I became “Army Strong” and spent nearly three of those years in Iraq.

It’s never made clear exactly what the Army slogan “Army Strong” means. I believe that I have the most accurate and truthful interpretation of what it stands for, and it has nothing to do with the commercials you see daily.

America’s service members feel the need to end their own lives at an alarming rate. It’s time we started talking about this, not to mention the increased amount of domestic violence and child abuse.

The armed forces suicide rate is double the national average. More American troops committed suicide in 2009 than died in combat in Afghanistan that same year: That is 381 suicides compared to 319 combat deaths. The statistic alone should make your stomach turn.

Those 381 suicides are spread among all four branches of the military — Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy — although 162 of them were Army soldiers. The military doesn’t count the suicides from Reservists or National Guard personnel, only active duty.

In 2010, the Army suicide number jumped up to 245, more than half of the 434 suicides militarywide. In 2011, just through the month of May, the number was already at 163 for the Army alone. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs says roughly 600 military and former military personnel take their own lives each year.

Now, try to stomach this one. For every suicide in the military, at least five more service members are hospitalized for attempting to kill themselves.

The question on almost everybody’s mind is, what is causing all of these American troops to do this?

 

FULL ARTICLE AT: http://blog.pennlive.com/editorials/print.html?entry=/2011/07/culture_of_stress_what_are_ser.html

Cost of Treating Veterans Will Rise Long Past Wars

Cost of Treating Veterans Will Rise Long Past Wars, 27 July 2010, NY Times

By: James Dao

 

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

WASHINGTON — Though the withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan will save the nation billions of dollars a year, another cost of war is projected to continue rising for decades to come: caring for the veterans.

By one measure, the cost of health care and disability compensation for veterans from those conflicts and all previous American wars ranks among the largest for the federal government — less than the military, Social Security and health care programs including Medicare, but nearly the same as paying interest on the national debt, the Treasury Department says.

Ending the current wars will not lower those veterans costs; indeed, they will rise ever more steeply for decades to come as the population of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan expands, ages and becomes more infirm. To date, more than 2.2 million troops have served in those wars.

Studies show that the peak years for government health care and disability compensation costs for veterans from past wars came 30 to 40 years after those wars ended. For Vietnam, that peak has not been reached.

In Washington, the partisan stalemate over cutting federal spending is now raising alarms among veterans groups and some lawmakers that the seemingly inexorable costs of veterans benefits will spur a backlash against those programs.

Even if cuts to veterans programs do not occur, the current mood of budgetary constraint seems likely to force the Department of Veterans Affairs to make do without the large spending increases it has received from Congress in the recent past.

That means efforts by veterans groups to expand existing health care programs, provide additional benefits to Vietnam veterans or institute new research into things liketraumatic brain injury or hearing loss will face difficult uphill battles, lawmakers and veterans advocates say.

“No one is thinking about the lifetime costs this country is responsible for,” said Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I’m really worried.”

FULL ARTICLE AT: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/28/us/28veterans.html?_r=2

Mental Problems Of Soldiers’ Kids Tied To Wars

Mental Problems Of Soldiers’ Kids Tied To Wars, 4 July 2011, Reuters.com

By Alina Selyukh

U.S. Marines of Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines are silhouetted against the sunset during a joint patrol with Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers along Helmand river near the Camp Gorgak in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, July 3, 2011. Credit: Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

WASHINGTON — The longer U.S. soldiers were deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, the more likely their children would be diagnosed with mental health problems, according to a study published Monday.

The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, analyzed medical records of 307,520 children of active-duty Army personnel, aged 5 to 17 years old. It found almost 17 percent of them exhibited mental health problems.

“Children of parents who spent more time deployed between 2003 and 2006 fared worse than children whose parents were deployed for a shorter duration,” the study’s researchers wrote.

The lead researcher was Alyssa Mansfield, who was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the time the study was conducted.

The U.S. Army reported some 562,000 members in active duty and more than 570,000 children of such members in 2010. Just under two-thirds of all active-duty servicemen and women were married and 15 percent were raising children as single parents.

 

FULL ARTICLE AT: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/04/us-military-idUSTRE7634XD20110704

Maltreated And Hazed, One Soldier Is Driven To Take His Own Life

Maltreated And Hazed, One Soldier Is Driven To Take His Own Life, 7 June 2011, Stars and Stripes

By Megan McCloskey

Spc. Brushaun Anderson is shown in this image from Facebook

Alarmed by rising suicides in their ranks, U.S. Army officials have launched multiple studies and directives to address the problem. But a Stars and Stripes investigation reveals two recent cases in which that high-level concern was thwarted by failures of leadership on the ground — and two more soldier suicides were added to the grim roster.

For Army Spc. Brushaun Anderson, there was no escaping his torment.

The senior noncommissioned officers who ruled his life at a remote patrol base in Iraq ordered him to wear a plastic trash bag because they said he was “dirty.”

They forced him to perform excessive physical exercises in his body armor over and over again.

They made him build a sandbag wall that served no military purpose.

Anderson seemed to take it all in stride. Until New Year’s Day 2010, when the once-eager 20-year-old soldier locked himself inside a portable toilet, picked up his M4 rifle, aimed the barrel at his forehead and pulled the trigger.

Anderson left behind a note lamenting his failures in the military, and some soldiers in his unit immediately said that Anderson had been driven to kill himself by leaders bent on humiliating him.

“No matter what Spc. Anderson did, no matter how big or small the incident was, his punishment was always extremely harsh, [and] a lot of the time demeaning,” one corporal later told Army investigators.

“Spc. Anderson’s punishments were not like anyone else’s in the platoon,” another corporal said. “Spc. Anderson was singled out.”

The U.S. Army is confronting an unprecedented suicide crisis. Since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 1,100 soldiers have taken their own lives, with the numbers escalating each year for the last six years. Last year alone, 301 soldiers committed suicide — a new record.

 

FULL ARTICLE AT: http://www.stripes.com/news/special-reports/suicide-in-the-military/maltreated-and-hazed-one-soldier-is-driven-to-take-his-own-life-1.145941#

The Cost Of War

The Cost Of War, 11 April 2011, Houston Chronicle

Clay Hunt was “a war hero and giant-hearted humanitarian,” read his obituary, detailing his tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his volunteer work in earthquake-stricken Haiti and Chile. As a Marine, “he often wondered why he survived when so many close friends and others paid the ultimate price for our nation’s freedom.”

The sad truth is that he didn’t survive. He returned from those wars with post-traumatic stress disorder and could never shake the survivor’s guilt at his comrades’ deaths. Finally, on March 31 of this year, he committed suicide in his Houston apartment, far from combat zones, but just as surely another battlefield casualty.

As reported by the Chronicle’s Lindsay Wise, Hunt, who had been active in suicide prevention efforts, had a hard time adjusting to civilian life after his discharge in 2009. He dropped out of college, divorced and had suicidal thoughts.

Things were looking up in recent months. He moved back to Houston, found a job and received medication for his depression and PTSD. But that didn’t save him.

Records are kept of suicides within the military: Last year, 468 military suicides were reported. But it’s impossible to say how many commit suicide after they leave the armed forces, since no statistics are kept unless a vet is treated by the Veterans Affairs agency.

FULL ARTICLE AT: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/7516062.html

Female Soldiers’ Suicide Rate Triples When At War

Female Soldiers’ Suicide Rate Triples When At War, 18 March 2011 , USA Today

By Gregg Zoroya

 

The suicide rate for female soldiers triples when they go to war, according to the first round of preliminary data from an Army study.

The findings, released to USA TODAY this week, show that the suicide rate rises from five per 100,000 to 15 per 100,000 among female soldiers at war. Scientists are not sure why but say they will look into whether women feel isolated in a male-dominated war zone or suffer greater anxieties about leaving behind children and other loved ones.

Even so, the suicide risk for female soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan is still lower than for men serving next to them, the $50 million study says.

Findings also show that marriage somehow helps inoculate male and female soldiers from killing themselves while they are overseas. Although these death rates among GI’s who are single or divorced double when they go to war, the rate among married soldiers does not increase, according to the study.

 

FULL ARTICLE AT: http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2011-03-18-1Asuicides18_ST_N.htm


More Suicides Among Guard, Reserve Soldiers

More Suicides Among Guard, Reserve Soldiers, 9 Jan 2011, USA Today

By Gregg Zoroya

The U.S. Army vice chief of staff, Peter Chiarelli, speaks at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., last month. Army leaders must heighten efforts to reduce suicide rates among National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers, he says.

 

An increase in suicides among National Guard soldiers largely in states across the Midwest — such as Missouri and Wisconsin — is responsible for a 24% increase in Army suicides last year, the service reported Wednesday.

Missouri and Texas each reported seven suicides among their National Guard troops in 2010, Wisconsin had six, and there were five each in the National Guard units of Minnesota, Ohio, Arizona, California and North Carolina.

Soldiers, both active duty and on inactive status, died by suicide at the rate of 25 per month in 2010, Army figures show.

“All of us are stunned by it, and we wished we knew why,” says Army Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie of the Wisconsin National Guard. “It is especially hard when it’s suicide, when it’s someone hurting in our ranks.”

USA TODAY reported in November that suicides had doubled among National Guard soldiers who were on inactive duty in a year when the Army was seeing a slight decline among active-duty soldier suicides.

The Army released final year-end statistics Wednesday. There were 301 confirmed or suspected soldier suicides in 2010, including those on active duty and reservists or National Guard troops on an inactive status, the Army reported Wednesday. This compares with 242 in 2009.

 

FULL ARTICLE AT: http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2011-01-20-suicides20_ST_N.htm

Study: Help Upfront Reduces Troops’ Mental Ills

Study: Help Upfront Reduces Troops’ Mental Ills, 18 Jan 2011, USA Today

By Gregg Zoroya

 

A battlefield study conducted by the Army on 20,000 soldiers during the troop surge in Iraq shows that more aggressive efforts to question and counsel GIs about their mental health reduce by nearly 80% the number who develop behavioral health illnesses during combat.

The results of the study, to be published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry, also show that 54% fewer soldiers contemplated suicide and that the number who needed to be sent home from Iraq with mental health problems dropped by nearly 70%.

“We’re excited about what this study shows,” says Maj. Gen. Patricia Horoho, Army deputy surgeon general. “It is the first direct evidence that a program (of more aggressive screening and treatment) is effective in preventing adverse behavioral health outcomes.”

The Army will begin using screening and treatment methods from the study within six months, Horoho says.

 

FULL ARTICLE AT: http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20110118/iraqscreening18_st.art.htm

Civilian soldiers’ suicide rate alarming

Civilian soldiers’ suicide rate alarming, USA Today, 25 Nov 2010

By: Gregg Zoroya

National Guard soldiers who are not on active duty killed themselves this year at nearly twice the rate of 2009, marring a year when suicides among Army soldiers on active duty appear to be leveling off, new Army statistics show.  86 non-active-duty Guard soldiers have killed themselves in the first 10 months of 2010, compared with 48 such suicides in all of 2009.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2010-11-26-1Atroopsuicides26_ST_N.htm?POE=click-refer

Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Sustaining Member of the Month

Association of the United States Army (AUSA) has selected the firm as the Sustaining Member of the Month

Dear Steptoe Group Supporters,

The Steptoe Group, LLC is please to announce that the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) has selected the firm as the Sustaining Member of the Month (Jan 2010). There are over 550 Sustaining Member companies. AUSA only bestows this honor on twelve companies in a given year.  You may view the AUSA feature at the link below or via the attachment.

http://www.ausa.org/membership/sustaining/members/Pages/TheSteptoeGroup,LLC.aspx

 

Thank you for your continued support and prayers,

 

Ronald J. Steptoe, CMR

Steptoe Group, LLC

President

443-324-1030

ron@thesteptoegroup.com

www.thesteptoegroup.com