Desperation, depression — and an overwhelming feeling of desertion — are the dangerous components that have contributed to the rising tide of suicide and mental health problems in the military. Just this week it was announced that for the sixth year in a row, suicide among members of the armed forces is on the rise. Mental health has been a growing problem in the military, as waves of soldiers continue to return from Afghanistan and Iraq in much worse shape than they left. New statistics reveal that for the second year in a row, more soldiers have killed themselves than been killed in active duty. July 2012 was the worst month for military suicides to date, with 39 self-inflicted deaths reported. That’s up from 24 the month before. Suicide is now the leading cause of death among soldiers.
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It can be something as little as the time I was standing in a hotel parking lot while on vacation one summer, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walking toward me. He looked exactly like my father. The closer he got, the larger the lump in my throat became. Or, it can be something a little bigger, like the few dozen times I’ve walked past the building on the campus of Northern Illinois University where my father worked and pictured him galloping up the stairs with a huge smile on his face. Or, even the time when I found the blue-knit cap he wore during the course of his chemotherapy and radiation to treat an aggressive form of sinus cancer and up until the day he committed suicide two weeks after finishing treatment. Or, the smell of his clothes and how they’d remind me of his big bear hugs.
That’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in a nutshell. It’s the body’s way of trying to process the massive stockpile of emotions left in the wake of a traumatic life event. Keep reading »