Suicide is now the leading cause of death among military. Suicide occurs when a person chooses to end their life as he or she view suicide as the only way out of the problem. The causes of suicide are different and unique for each person.
The stressor caused by war is one of the reasons these soldiers to choose to suicide. Some of them could not cope with what they had been through during the war. Kelly (2004) discussed about a former Army sergeant, Matt La Branche, who shared the memories when he was in Iraq War. “He constantly struggles with the image of the Iraqi woman who died in his arms after he had shot her” (Kelly, 2004). According to Buncombe & Duff (2006), “When you go to bed at night you wonder will you be sent home in a flag-draped coffin because a mortar round went off on your sleeping area.” another army also shared his experience after the war. These examples showered how the soldier experienced severe anxiety, suffered from a serious depression, and become dependent on alcohol. They keep toughing themselves with negative thought and cannot stand the memories that they are murdered, seeing children killed, families wipe out and even the loss of comrades. Killing and brutality of the war have led to many soldiers feel shame, embarrassment, and guilt.
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The untreated depression, frequent deployments, financial stress, substance abuse, borderline personality disorder, often brutal choices and the family separation have been linked to suicide rate among soldiers. Some soldiers appear to be at particularly high risk for suicide after break up of a relationship. Some of the soldier sees depression as a sign of weakness and it might bring an end to their career. Thus, most of them will choose to deny the existence of their depression. However, as one constantly choose not to acknowledgement that one is suffering from depression, things will become worst and possibly ended with a mental break down.
From the studies, Michael and Ian were highly valued, integrity, well-educated officers with families and with bright future chooses to commit suicide. Michael had been depressed for roughly 7 years and the final years of his life. He sought help, but took it frivolously and did not take it seriously. In addition, the commander did not order him to seek help as it did not sound like an army issue to him. He sees depression as a sign of weakness and he was afraid it will ruin his career. The stress came from the family especially when his oldest son was diagnosed with leukemia and possibly a relationship break down as well. In his last email, he noted that he regretted his failure as a husband, as a father. We can see the stress of being a husband and father; he felt that he was useless and could not do the best for his family. As a man like him, he could not stand the stigma somehow and did not acknowledge about his depression.
However, as a commander, he needs to understand the situation objectively and should not be saying those irresponsible words “â€¦this doesn’t sound like an Army issue to me” (Thompson & Gibbs, 2012). It does not mean someone who is doing well at work would not be affected by depression. The problem can come in many other ways that are not visible.
Ian Morrison, on the other hand, struggled with his anger, anxiety, restless, and sleeplessness. He had the perseverance to figure out how to stop his anxiety and sought for help. He sought help from the army and military 6 times and three days before he died. Sadly, he was always told to be on hold, and the responses give to him was “you come to the wrong place”, or “stay on the line, we can’t help you right now”. Although he managed to reach the doctor, it was upsetting because the doctor had not treated his anxiety and only gave him sleeping pills in order for him to improve on his sleeping habits. He also tried to enrol in an Army sleep study but was told that he could not join it. In my own perception, the incident of him almost hit by a rocket in one mission and the reassignment is the cause his anxiety and sleeplessness. Ian tried his very best to seek help from the professionals but no one could help him to look into the issues.(Thompson & Gibbs, 2012).
This is an issue for us to reflect on. There is no response from mental health professionals as they work is overloaded or there is a shortage of staff. The phone lines are always busy as there are too many people calling in seeking for help. I hope the military will really take actions to help other soldiers, and concern about those who need help.
What is PTSD and how PTSD affects these soldiers?
PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder. According to Longe & Wells (2007) and Farlex, Inc. (2012), “Post-traumatic stress disorder is a debilitating psychological condition triggered by a major traumatic event, such as rape, war, a terrorist act, death of loved one, a natural disaster, or a catastrophic accident.” It is marked by exposure to stressor, unhappy memories of the unpleasant experience, increased arousal, avoidance, numbing and severe personality changes.
People with PTSD sometimes have frozen eye movement such as shell-shocked soldiers. Thus, moving the eyes might accelerate the integration of traumatic memory with adaptive cognitions that are stored elsewhere in the brain. It is possible that the gentle processing biochemically alters the brain so that it becomes desensitized. (Schiraldi,2009).
Most of the symptoms are resemble to traumatic brain injury. The common symptoms of PTSD are hyper alertness, feeling of isolation, guilt, nightmares, depression, fear and anxiety, increased substance abuse, flashbacks, gastrointestinal complaints, negative world view and others. According to Fredericks (2010) and WebMD (2012), “People with PTSD have symptoms for longer than one month. For a person with PTSD, these feelings continue and even increase, becoming so strong that they keep themselves from living a normal life.”
The statistics show that PTSD increased dramatically among soldiers from World War II, War in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. According to Hazelden Foundation (2011), “PTSD often leaves ones feeling out of control, vulnerable, and as if one is in constant danger. These feelings are persistent, strong, and do not disappear over time on their own.” Fredericks (2010) notes that soldiers who struggled with the PTSD can significantly disrupt their daily routine, work and relationship. PTSD will affect their performance of work such as absenteeism, fatigue, poor concentration, restless and so on. Communication will also be affected by anger, aggressive, detachment, avoiding people and others.
According to Fredericks (2010), people with PTSD will always be restless, unable to sleep, and always have the feeling of anxiety. PTSD also affects these soldiers’ perceived extent of threat, upset, fear, panic, terror which are uncontrollable. It may turn a person from an amazing father to a person who is always hard to family members. The number of people suffering from PTSD among the military and veterans are alarming and needs to be solved.
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The statement “it was not the war that turned out to be hard, it was the peace”. Interpret the meaning of the statement?
In one study, The War on Suicide (Thompson & Gibbs, 2012), “It was not the war that turned out to be hard, it was the peace.” This statement clearly expresses a feeling from a soldier who was returning home from a military life.
The daily routine for an army is to get up at the exact time, to eat, and to work out. Everyone is obliged to strict rules and schedules. Some experienced troubles while trying to cope with the normal routine and social skill when they returned home. A lot of the soldiers are always alert for their personal safety. Some are easily frighten with a deafeningly loud bang and easily get panicked and could not walk down the street without worrying. Sleep may be scarce, and there’s no real down time. This is a result of an improvised explosive or artillery going off in a combat zone.
Some soldiers look normal when they returned home alive. It is very hard for them to readjust after the torment that they had been through the war or mission. It is because, some soldiers returned with missing parts of their bodies, permanent scars, torment loss of comrades and confront with killing and death daily. Some of them come home for nothing; families have abandoned them (e.g. divorced, parent’s death and so on) or losing their jobs.
Buncombe & Duff, (2006) describe a life from a former army reservist, Douglas Barber, he said “We come home from war trying to put our lives back together but some cannot stand the memories and decide that death is better. We kill ourselves because we are so haunted by seeing children killed and whole families wiped out.” The path they had gone through was unthinkable for anyone to imagine. Most of them do not know how to cope with returning to a society from a military.
The comment made by General Dana Pittard was indeed arrogant and ignorant but I believe it is the truth. What is your opinion? It is okay if you think differently than me.
According to Thompson & Gibbs (2012), “the comments made by General Dana Pittard complaining that he was personally fed up with absolutely selfish troops who kill themselves, leaving him and others to “clean up their mess. Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems.”
To a certain extent, I believed that it is correct. Everyone goes through pain and pleasures in their life. I strongly believed that there is an unknown story behind every hardship. Each experience and pain will change one’s perspective about life, especially regarding matters related to surviving. Those who could not control their state of mind after being often suffers from depression, anxiety and low self-esteem as they could no longer cope with the daily routine of a normal life. It is always a saddening moment to see people ending their precious life. I believed everyone knows the phrase of “life is precious”. However, we tend to forget the existence and meaning of this phrase when adversities strike and often could not view the matter from a more optimistic perspective. In the end, the fragile life was simply put to an end when one could not handle the amount of pressure and stress, leaving their loving parents, caring friends and relatives to mourn for their death. Everyone has a responsibility to their own life. There are always solutions to any problems, and one shall not give up as help will always be given.
However, we could not always fully understand the reasons why certain people choose to end their life as we did not went through nor experience their journey of life. There might be other contributing factors that lead to this decision. We could not judge from the surface and view the matter one-sidedly as it involves complicated issues and sometimes beyond one’s control. Are they anyone who is willing the help when they are depressed? Are there any close friends, relatives or families who notice the changes in their emotions and feelings? Are there any listeners or counselors present when they need to express their feelings or seek advice? These are some of the questions we should acknowledge before drawing the conclusion.
In my personal opinion, a comment made by General Dana Pittard was utterly disrespectful towards the troops. These soldiers were not selfish; it was just that they could not find the right person to help them when they needed one. There seems to be no light at the end of their tunnel, whether the light could come from someone, or through self-reflection. However, I do not agree that these soldiers should end their life when they could not find any help. What matters now is to focus on those who are desperately in need of help. We should not give up hope on these soldiers and should always care for them, especially those who are near and close to us. Tragedies like this should be prevented in the future to avoid innocent soldiers from ending their precious life. Respect and honor shall be given to these soldiers as they sacrifice their lives for the safety of the nation. I believed that through consistent support and motivation, these soldiers would not feel alone anymore as there will always be someone who is willing to help them during their darkest days.
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