Military Suicides


            I recently read an article about suicide prevention training becoming mandatory for every person in the U.S. Army. As I continued to read I found out this was due to the Army reaching its highest suicide rate since 1980 when the Pentagon began recording it (Tundel). This led me to another suicide about military suicides and I found a surprising statistic the rate of suicide of “military personnel has exceeded that of the civilian population” (CNN).  These articles explain how the stresses of war, life at home, and military life itself cause people to “feel like life just isn’t worth living” (Tundel).

            I began to think of Slaughterhouse-Five  when Billy Pilgrim is in the hospital with Eliot Rosewater. They express feelings like many military personnel coming back from the current wars or military situations in Iraq and Afghanistan,

            “They had both found life meaningless, partly because of what they had seen in the war. Rosewater, for instance, had shot a fourteen-year-old fireman, making him for a German soldier. So it goes. Billy had seen the greatest massacre in European history, which was the fire-bombing of Dresden. So it goes” (Vonnegut 128).

            War has always been understood as a horrible thing. However, soldiers mental well being is not often considered, because fighting for your country is a heroic act and they must be proud of themselves. Many soldiers through out the war of our country have suffered from PTSD and as one of the articles said,

            “In 2004, the U.S. Army reported 12 suicides; last year, 143. At this point in 2009, more soldiers have lost their lives to suicide than have been killed in combat” (Tundel).

            That is a shocking thought. War is not just about soldiers dying in combat, innocent bystanders also get killed and soldiers come home broken physically and mentally. These issues seem to get pushed to the wayside for the grander goal of the government. However, the Army is taking an important step by using the suicide prevention training program. Even so I find it hard to have full faith in this program. As rosewater said to the psychiatrist in the hospital,

            “I think you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful new lies, or people just aren’t going to want to go on living” (Vonnegut 129). 



Army responds to record number of suicides Nikki Tundel

‘Stressed and tired force’ linked to military suicide CNN

Published in: on March 22, 2009 at 3:25 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Interesting observation, Jesse. Unfortunately, mental (emotional) consequences of the war seem to never get the attention they deserve by the public and the governments. In fact, I rarely ever hear about those who get physically injured in the war (or become disabled) even though they are in the ten thousands, how is it for those who suffer emotional problems due to the trauma of the war? Surely, they are never paid attention to or given the attention they deserve.
    Until we realize that the emotionally injured (traumatized) are also victims of the war, we will never be able to treat suicide amongst soldiers. Such is the case because traumas of the war are so severe to the point where they keep haunting their victims long after they are discharged; and no, suicide prevention is not enough, because such traumas are not temporary and because they are technically disabilities that should be treated like any serious injury (or chronic disease), as their effects (harm) lasts for a long time after the emotional injury is produced.
    It is just like Billy in Slaughter House where he kept struggling with such problems for years after his duty in the military ended. Similarly, traumatized army personnel struggle with their traumas long after they leave the service, and a short-term prevention program is never enough to treat problems that require years of therapy. I, therefore, view such prevention programs more like a way to say “we care,” but really, they do not care, and it seems like soldiers (troops) are being treated like “replaceable tools,” otherwise, the situation would not have reach such a dangerous and severe state where more soldiers would commit suicide than get killed in the combat.

    -Moe Fawaz

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