Riddle me this: How is the Pentagon and the military top brass like Psychiatrists and the AMA (American Medical Association)?
Tough one, right? Here’s the answer. They both think that there is a physical, mechanical or biochemical solution to what essential is a spiritual or soul-based problem. I’m talking about PTSD and especially the epidemic of soldier suicides occurring among our combat forces returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, and to a lesser degree from any theater of war since man started hitting each other over the head with rocks, clubs, arrows, spears, guns and atomic bombs. Without doubt the problem has gotten worse, and the reasons for this are highly debatable. Certainly the length of military deployment and the severity of physical violence and psychological trauma suffered in combat are significant factors. Research backs that up as the more intense and frequent a soldier experiences life-threatening episodes and the longer they are deployed in such unusually stressful horrific conditions, the more likely they will later suffer from Post Trauma Stress Disorder. However, the question of why so many soldiers are returning home from active duty and later taking their own life is not the same question, altho there may be a correlation between the two. I believe this is one of the first “knotty” issues that needs to be more fully investigated, empirically untied, and essentially deconstructed. Why do some combat veterans come home from war and become symptom free business leaders, senators and congressmen, some become alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless bums or cave dwelling hermits, while other tortured souls eventually commit suicide?
It is too easy to assume the obvious: that they are men and women trained to kill and to use lethal force, that they had access to and competence in using firearms and other sophisticated weaponry, that they returned to lives of economic hardship, monotony, loose or non-existent social bonds (unlike their highly supportive Band of Brothers), that they lacked or lost (due to their wartime experiences) normal social skills or the ability to give or receive love, comfort and intimacy,,,,the list could go on and on. Each could be true in one case but absolutely untrue in another. Regardless of circumstances, a growing number of veterans, in a state of desperation and emotional pain we cannot conceive of and/or loss of faith in living, tragically end their lives.
Unfortunately, just like the well trained and highly efficient soldiers they are, when they attempt such an act, they are usually successful.
The “glasses” we wear, rose colored or otherwise, and the “lenses” we see through morally and instrumentally often bias our conclusions. Religious people tend to conclude that these lost souls and wounded warriors failed to maintain a life-affirming connection to God, Christ, and the numerous faith-based institutions that reinforce fellowship and community. Certainly that could play a major role in some cases and represent an important mitigating factor. Again, such a theory still does not address the real question of “Why?” as in: Why did they do it and why do some choose to take the most extreme, most final form of “treatment” for their psychological and emotional pain? Can death ever be considered a reasonable solution to human suffering? Even on this most fundamental question there is much debate. However, recent findings about PTSD in combat veterans may provide us with some intriguing clues to help explain the growing number of suicides among service members, both active and retired.
To Be Continued….. High Tech Drones and Psychoactive Drugs will not keep our Combat Veterans Safe From Suicide on Their Return Home (Part 2)