Troops are more likely to kill themselves than to be killed by the enemy

| June 22, 2021

Jeff LPH 3 sends in this grim report from Military Times;

Four times as many troops and vets have died by suicide as in combat, study finds

The suicide rate among active-duty troops and veterans has outpaced the also-rising rate in the general population in recent years, but with so many risk factors inherent to military life, it’s difficult to pin down why.

There’s no one reason for it, according to a study released Monday by the Costs of War Project, and the way the Defense Department and VA track suicides might mean even their growing numbers are incomplete.

“The report notes that the increasing rates of suicide for both veterans and active duty personnel are outpacing those of the general population ? an alarming shift, as suicide rates among service members have historically been lower than suicide rates among the general population,” according to a news release.

Per researchers’ estimates, 30,177 Global War on Terror veterans have died by suicide, compared to 7,057 who have died while deployed in support of the Global War on Terror.

There are myriad stressors endemic not only to combat deployments, but also to military service, that may contribute to the rising suicide rate.

“There are clear contributors to suicidal ideation like high exposure to trauma — mental, physical, moral, and sexual — stress and burnout, the influence of the military’s hegemonic masculine culture, continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life,” according to the report. “In addition to these factors, it is imperative we also consider the impact of the military’s reliance on guiding principles which overburden individual service members with moral responsibility, or blameworthiness for actions or consequences, over which they have little control.”

The report explores a wide variety of factors, some as straightforward as the trauma of combat, but also others, such as advancements in health care that have not only allowed more troops to survive injury, but allowed them to continue to deploy over and over, racking up more physical and mental trauma.

“For example, since the post-9/11 wars began, we have seen a tremendous rise of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in warfare, significantly increasing the number of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and polytrauma cases among service members,” according to the report. “TBIs have affected as many as 20 percent of post-9/11 service members, with many experiencing more than one during their career.”

Twenty years of combat operations might also be a factor.

“Simultaneously, the length of the war and advances in medical care have allowed service members to redeploy after severe physical trauma,” according to the report. “These compounding traumas contribute to worsening suicide rates as service members deploy and redeploy after sustaining severe injuries.”

And even for those who haven’t been injured, or even seen a firefight, the constant fear of IEDs is enough to seed post-traumatic stress that can be more and more of a problem down the line.

Two decades of war couldn’t possibly be part of the problem, could it? All of the special ops-types who have broke bad over the last several years have an insane number of combat deployments under their belt. Even for those who haven’t deployed every year for the last 20 years, the frequent actual deployments, the threat of short notice deployments, and the constant training for deploying to the ongoing conflict take a toll.

Category: "The Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves", Disposable Warriors, Terror War

Comments (18)

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  1. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    War with unintended victory has unintended friendly casualties.

    Who would have guessed?

  2. Berliner says:

    Sad but true. Spouse learned via grapevine just this past Friday that two Joint Base Lewis-McChord troops, one of which was married, had committed suicide. I just did a googlish search and one made the news:

    “The death of a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who died Thursday after he was hit by a train is being investigated as a suicide, DuPont police said Friday.

    A Burlington Northern Santa Fe train hit the man about 10 a.m. when he was on the tracks roughly 2 miles south of an area called Solo Point along the water near DuPont.

    Police Chief Bob Sheehan said the death of the Army member is being investigated as a likely suicide.

    The name of the man killed was not released. His body is in military custody, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s office.”

    Solo Point is the only portion of Joint Base Lewis-McChord with marine access to Puget Sound and is designated for the purpose of various amphibious training operations including small watercraft and helicopters. Train tracks follow the coast in this area.

  3. Martinjmpr says:

    The big question is, is this really a change?

    The demographics of those who successfully commit suicide is: Young, white, male from a middle- or lower-class background, often with divorced or unmarried parents, with little education and not much of an emotional support system.

    And if you look at the demographics of those who enlist in the armed forces, it’s almost exactly the same. Add in the stress of military life, deployments, etc, and I can’t say it’s a surprise.

    Certainly there are some “stresses of war” aspects to the high suicide rate but that only tells part of the story.

    There are stressors that have zero to do with the enemy shooting at them that are also affecting lots of soldiers/sailors/airmen/marines.

    Things like long deployments away from family and friends, mind-bogglingly stupid rules and regulations arbitrarily imposed by commands, substandard housing and food, differential treatment based on rank, the difficulty of forming or maintaining intimate relationships when in the military, etc, and these stressors affect military members whether they’re “trigger pullers” or clerk-typists.

    Trying to attribute it all to “the PTSD” of combat veterans ignores a lot of the real problems within the military that are contributing to the suicide rate.

  4. Ex-PH2 says:

    Two decades of war as a stressor?

    Naaaaah! Rome was perpetually at war and never really did anything else. How could that possibly be a stressor to anyone?

    • Anonymous says:

      Combat exposure didn’t make a difference, strangely enough.

    • UpNorth says:

      Risking life and limb to go for a tie? Seems like that question answers itself, Ex. How many times is someone supposed to deploy with those ROE’s.
      Seeing friends die or get maimed for, basically, nothing seems like it would quickly build up those stressors.

  5. KoB says:

    It might too, be the Warriors are so upset at what is happening to their Armed Services that they just give up.

    The real tragedy is the pain a suicide leaves their survivors in.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Just wait ’til we fight the Chicoms after all the “woke” crap– that’ll fix it! /sarc

  7. Slow Joe says:

    Bullshit.

    As many as 75 percent of all suicides in the units I have served with were unrelated to deployments since most people who commit suicide in the military have never deployed.

    Right now I have two shitbags receiving behavioral health support (EBH) because of claiming suicidal thoughts, and they are new Soldiers who have never deployed.

    I call that study bullshit.

  8. Slow Joe says:

    In my personal experience, failure to adapt to military life is a far higher risk factor for suicide than deployments.

    • Claw says:

      Sarc Alert:

      Hey, Joe, shouldn’t you be doing PT right now instead of farting around on your I-Phone? It was my personal experience that PT was mandatory for every swinging dick on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the 4th ID.

      Oh, wait, did the weather balloon say it’s too hot on Carson this morning for PT./s

  9. 26Limabeans says:

    “continued access to guns”

    No report is complete without that statement.
    Just ask the CDC. Or be interviewed for surgery.
    Sorry but I stop reading as soon as that phrase appears.

    • timactual says:

      Unless things have changed significantly civilians have more and easier access to guns than members of the military, and definitely easier access to guns+ammo.

      • Martinjmpr says:

        ^^^^^ Yep, this is very true. Back when I used to write for a gun blog there were a lot of civilians who were surprised at how tightly the military regulated access to firearms, both military and privately owned.

        When I was on active duty, the first thing I did, even before signing into my new post, was to go to one of those “self storage” places off-post and rent a small storage unit. Guns and ammo went in there. That way I didn’t have to hassle with the post regulations regarding firearms and if I wanted to go shooting, it was easy for me to get to them.

  10. Martinjmpr says:

    The most creative way to lie is to tell the truth in a manner that is designed to cause the listener to draw an incorrect conclusion.

    This is where the whole “22 a day” nonsense comes in, as in “22 veterans commit suicide every day.”

    By connecting the two things (being a veteran and committing suicide) the person using this statistic (which is of dubious origin anyway) causes the listener to assume – without any other evidence – that one is related to the other.

    Whereas, in fact even to the extent that the “22 a day” factoid is true, often times these “veterans” are one-termers or even entry-level-separation types whose suicide was a result of depression, alcoholism, drug abuse or some other factor completely unconnected with their short military service and often multiple decades afterwards.

    It is, in fact, both a lie and a slander on the military that the “broken veteran” stereotype that has become a cliché in the modern world.

    And the reason it’s so enduring is because it benefits so many people and so many groups.

    Think about it: Veterans advocacy groups use the “broken veteran” archetype to raise money.

    Politicians use it to boost support for their various social programs.

    Social Justice Warriors use it to try and wrap a patriotic flag around their “social justice” demands.

    Those who despise and denigrate the military use it to support their belief that the military “dehumanizes” and “breaks” ordinary people.

    Criminals, drug addicts and beggars use the “broken veteran” cliché to try and avoid responsibility for their actions.

    And finally, those who “support” the military with yellow ribbon stickers (but who would never dream of recommending that their little Johnny or Suzie think of enlisting – after all, they can get into a good college!) use the “broken veteran” cliché as reinforcement for their decision to avoid military service themselves or for their families.

    The truth, of course, is that SUCCESSFUL veterans – that is, those who successfully completed a term or even a full career of service, whether they deployed to a combat zone or not – are more likely to be employed, mentally healthy, well adjusted, and less likely to suffer from depression, substance abuse or other mental conditions than those in their age cohort of the general population.

    And it’s easy to understand why – because people with behavioral or personality problems will either never enlist in the first place, or will get kicked to the curb very quickly.

    Those that remain are generally healthier, both physically and mentally.

    I am so damn tired of the “veteran-as-victim” meme.

  11. timactual says:

    The “Costs of War Project” is a subsidiary of the Watson Institute, which is a subsidiary of Brown University.

    “Mission
    The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University seeks to promote a just and peaceful world through research, teaching, and public engagement.”

    The usual left-wing boilerplate from another taxpayer-funded left-wing advocacy group.