It’s a discussion many attempt to avoid. Admittedly, I’m one of them. It’s time.
But first, a true story for you.
Libby Busbee, the mother of Army Spc. William Busbee, fearlessly pounded on the automobile window belonging to her son while he sat inside with the windows rolled up and doors locked. His car sat in the driveway of her home. He had a 45 caliber gun pointed to his head.
Ms. Busbee cried out to her son, “Look at me! Look at me!”
He would not look at his mother.
William Busbee took his own life that day, and all-the-while his mother and sisters watched.
Army & Navy Reporting Record Suicides.
If not already, you may want to sit down. The facts are not only alarming… they’re staggering.
The Army and Navy are reporting record levels of suicides for 2012. Marines and the Air Force are not far behind, making 2012 the worst year ever.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta refers to military suicides as an ‘epidemic.’
It gets worse. It’s not just active military members. Its veterans too. Veteran Affairs says a veteran commits suicide now every 80 minutes. This means that, for every active military person who dies in battle, 25 veterans take their own life.
For the first time ever, military suicides have outnumbered civilian suicides in 2012. The rate for the Army was close to 30 per 100,000 compared to 24 per 100,000 civilian population of similar demographic population.
Why? Is There Any One Single Answer To Explain So Many Military Suicides?
Many point the finger to the ‘economy’ back home, leaving returning veterans with few or no work opportunities. This leads to stress, guilt, and feelings of hopelessness that are often felt by the unemployed.
Then those with combat experiences may experience PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder). Witnessing war, death, and the wages of war is not normal. The lingering memories can be trembling, and not to mention repetitive. Sadly, some veterans may become ‘reclusive’ since their battle experiences are not common to the civilian population. However, USA Today quoted one source that “85% of the suicides were related to failed relationships, linking it to the high number of separations.” Not only that, but of the military suicides, approximately 70% of the Marines, 80% of the Army, 98% of the Air Force, and 92% of the Navy personnel had never seen combat.
Perhaps there’s some help on the way in the way of ‘professional care’. General Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, announced in April that there would be an increase of 1,600 mental health workers. The Veterans Administration said that they’re moving quickly to address the suicides as a top priority. However, according to one parent who lost a child to military suicide, “it’s a monster out of control. They (the VA) are not prepared for the number of veterans (needing help).”
Imagine the continued pain of Libby Busbee when she found the bottles of pills in a plastic bag belonging to her son. The bottle labels represented three pharmacies in three different states. Needless to say, that mixing of drugs and taking too much can create additional problems. According to Ed Ailes, President and CEO of Life Management Center, “the rise in suicides is troubling but probably will not subside since the number of veterans coming home from war continues. He goes on to say, “mixing drugs and taking too much of one drug could be detrimental. Overdoses of prescribed medicine can add to a person’s psychological problems.”
What’s Next? Is it a ‘Military’ Problem?
I beg to differ that it is not! Active military and veterans alike are the children of our nation and protectors of our national freedom. Not only should they be loved… they should feel ‘loved’.
The military has already spent $50 million in researching possible answers. However, the suicides continue to rise.
Could There Be Hope From An Unusual Source?
One faith-based organization, Church.org, is now preparing a website that will attempt to connect military personnel with civilian encouragement partners, provide faith based companionship and resources with the goal of no one feeling isolated.
Not only that, but they hope to offer free downloads of positive music, free online sermons written for young adults (the vast majority of military suicides are between the ages of 17 – 30), online resources to maintain relationships with active servicemen while away in other countries and the ability of these servicemen to attend church ‘on-line’ wherever they may be. In fact, sermon topics like loneliness, fear, and military suicides will be easily found by those seeking help. Lastly, a 24 hour suicide ‘Skype/Online’ hotline.
According to Church.org, their goal is to reach out and touch all active military personnel and veterans… letting them know that they are truly loved and are each significant. And not just stopping there, but also connecting military personnel’s family and friends to their local churches for support. This source of reaching out is ‘all’ of us.
One thing is clear. This is not one single organization’s problem. Every living American should embrace our freedom and love for human rights granted in our country by reaching out with an open heart to all military men and women.
The organized heartfelt hugs they get once they arrive back home at the airport are an awesome start!
But it’s up to all of us to offer each and every active and military veteran ‘hugs’ of support and opportunity on the job and long after they return back home.