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Suicide Among Combat Veterans: Background information when reading All the Ruined Men

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All the Ruined Men

Stories

by Bill Glose

All the Ruined Men by Bill Glose X
All the Ruined Men by Bill Glose
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    Aug 2022, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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Suicide Among Combat Veterans

This article relates to All the Ruined Men

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Service members in shadow toting gearWar casts a long shadow, and no more so than when combat veterans return home carrying the heavy burden of physical and psychological wounds. As a result, one of the most urgent issues facing the United States military today is the epidemic of suicide among veterans. According to a 2021 article, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, 7,057 U.S. military service members have been killed in war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Astoundingly, the number of deaths by suicide of veterans and service members since 9/11 is four times that, as related in a recent study conducted as part of the Costs of War project from Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

The paper estimates the number of suicide deaths at 30,177 and cites multiple factors that contribute to this statistic. Factoring in the inherent risks that war brings (i.e., high exposure to trauma, stress, military culture and training, continued access to guns and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life), there exists a specific subset of factors unique to the post-9/11 era:

  • Increased exposure to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and the subsequent rise in cases of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
  • Scientific advances in medical treatment that heal wounded soldiers faster, leading to multiple deployments.
  • The long duration of the War on Terror, which has exposed service members to an increased number of traumatic episodes.

The study also cites the growing disapproval of the American public to the War as an additional challenge — one "that has only enhanced veterans' difficulty finding belonging and self-worth as they reintegrate in society."

While these factors are depressing, individual states are taking steps to help their service members. For instance, legislators in Colorado passed a bill in 2021 creating a pilot program for veteran suicide prevention, a much-needed act since Colorado is home to six military installations and approximately 373,000 veterans. Senate Bill 21-129 requires the Colorado Department of Human Services to establish the four-year program aimed at reducing suicide and thoughts of suicide among veterans in El Paso County, where there is a large concentration of military bases and other facilities.

The program will provide "no-cost, stigma-free, confidential, and effective" mental health treatment for up to 700 veterans and their families in El Paso County, where there is a high rate of veteran deaths by suicide, averaging one per week. If successful, the hope is that the state's resources will allow for an expansion of the program to reach more veterans.

Another hopeful development is the Governor's and Mayor's Challenges to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF), launched in all 52 states, territories and communities across the U.S. For more information and to learn how you can get involved, check out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website.

Filed under Society and Politics

Article by Peggy Kurkowski

This article relates to All the Ruined Men. It first ran in the August 24, 2022 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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