Veteran PTSD mental illness suicide
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By Alan Mosley

While enjoying some Saturday afternoon college football, I was treated to about a dozen reruns of a commercial produced by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Let me paint the scene for you:

A man sits alone in his pickup truck beside a lone oak upon a ridge in an otherwise rolling green prairie. The sky is a canvas of orange and purple as the sun sets on a peaceful day in the foothills of rural America. Suddenly, the imagery fades to a gun case holding a pistol. Notably unloaded, the hands of the otherwise off-screen figure emerge to affix a lock to his sidearm, as even the case and separated magazine wasn’t enough to keep this soldier safe.

But safe from what? The voice over then chimes in:

“A simple lock puts space between the thought and the trigger. Learn how securing your firearms can prevent suicide.”

Look, I get it. The message they’re trying to convey is most suicides are an act of impulse. A veteran’s life may be saved if a little patience and deliberation is introduced into the equation. But it’s really hard to receive this advert as anything but a hollow gesture when the prescription provided by the VA is a gun lock without an ounce of reflection on the root cause of the crisis.

According to estimates, a little more than 7,000 soldiers have died during military operations since the start of the “War on Terror” following the attacks of September 11. Meanwhile, suicides among both active duty and veterans of those conflicts have exploded to more than 30,000, or more than four times those lost in combat. While these numbers are sobering, and possibly even erring on the conservative side, the real focus should be on what is driving the dilemma and how best to put an end to it.

With the War on Terror now exceeding two decades, experts’ reasoning for the cause of the veteran suicide epidemic has evolved just as the wars themselves have evolved over those 20+ years. The most avid participants in regime apologism blame the diminishing public support for the terror wars for the rise in veteran mental health.

It’s true that Americans’ appetites for forever war is reaching all-time lows, as evidenced by the support for withdrawal from Afghanistan no matter how mismanaged. However, placing the blame on the American public’s growing distaste for the terror wars rather than the destruction they have wrought lacks an ounce of self-awareness for how long and costly the wars have been.

Others have put forth that a rash of sexual assaults among personnel and a culture of “toxic masculinity” has led to increased mental health issues among service members. Nearly 1 in 4 servicewomen have reported cases of sexual assault, an embarrassment and a disgrace to the institution. The “boys club” may be to blame in equal parts for betraying its sisters in arms and convincing its brothers that they are weak men for raising the alarm on the service’s sins.

However, the weakest and most deceitful reason suggested may be that veterans are at severe risk of suicide because of their access to firearms. The rate of suicidal persons electing to turn to a firearm to commit the act has been used as fodder by gun prohibition advocates to attack the 2nd Amendment. This tactic not only belies an agenda totally divorced from concern for military veterans, it also implies veterans are among the least qualified to possess firearms for personal use rather than among the most qualified.

There’s another explanation worth considering, and it was perfectly illustrated right as the American occupation of Afghanistan was coming to a close. In an attempt to straddle the fence between bringing the War in Afghanistan to a long-overdue end while appeasing hawks who consider “withdrawal” to be synonymous with “surrender,” President Biden signed off on a drone strike against an alleged ISIS-K target. The unfortunate victims of said drone missile were not militants, but rather one Zamarai Ahmadi—a 43-year-old aid worker—and his children, US military officials admitted.

Mark A. Milley
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley (Rod Lamkey/Pool via AP)

Despite this admission, no disciplinary action is expected as senior officials continue to “stand by the intel leading to the strike.” This is quite a callous and remorseless defense of “the intel” that ultimately concluded that Ahmadi, who helped Americans during the occupation, deserved to die for the crime of loading his white sedan with jugs of water for his family.

It is disrespectful and offensive to the nation’s veterans to recommend that their best foot forward against depression is to secure their firearms.

This incident is merely a microcosm of the role unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) have played in the War on Terror. According to a recent report, upwards of 90 percent of the people killed in drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia were “not the intended targets.”

In other words, nearly 9 out of 10 people killed by the American government were likely innocent civilians. Service members returning home are being confronted with reports of American atrocities and war crimes. For some, the guilt of being responsible for or associated with creating terror abroad when they believed themselves to be in a war to end terror may be overwhelming.

It’s certainly a welcome change to acknowledge the suicide epidemic among American service members. But acknowledgement of the problem without any meaningful introspection as to the cause signals that the US government is more concerned with its PR than with stemming the creation of more psychologically damaged veterans.

There may be several reasonable explanations for the trauma American troops are experiencing, but no list is complete without a willingness to confront the damage that US forces have caused, as well as the damage they have received. Regardless of your position on the cause of the crisis, or of America’s foreign policy generally, it is disrespectful and offensive to the nation’s veterans to recommend that their best foot forward against depression is to secure their firearms.

 

Alan Mosley is the host of The Gold Standard with Alan Mosley, which talks current events, politics, and pop culture from a libertarian perspective. It is a proud product of “little L productions,” and can be found on various podcasting platforms including iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play, as well as YouTube. More info on Alan, including his social media handles and more can be found at his website, thegoldstandardpodcast.com.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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33 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a stupid commercial. A person who is motivated to commit suicide isn’t going to be deterred by a gun lock they installed and for which they have the combination.

  2. Veterans who contemplate suicide need — and have earned — mental health care, and they’re not getting it. Why? Because once the veterans have done the government’s dirty work, the G has no further need of them. So the G makes videos, pontificates and virtue-signals, while all the time they’re debating how much money to pay illegal border jumpers.

    If you really want to prevent suicide, don’t lock up your guns. Lock up your Congressman.

    • There’s also another issue: often when one seeks mental health care there are all sort of stigma attached and could even get the person added to the NICS prohibited list, among others despite no crime or any type of threat to either self or others.

      • I spent 25 years in the military, with many of those years in combat. It has been my experience; most that served refuse to admit that they have any mental health issues, specifically because they are concerned about repercussions like Craig in IA points out.

        Many that do claim mental health issues are only looking for the PTSD disability golden ticket. They want the money and benefits and aren’t concerned with getting help. In some cases, they don’t even need help, as they never left a FOB or were deployed where there was any real danger.

      • Yep. I’m never going to seek mental health care because I’m not willing to risk losing my RKBA.

        I was asked by a “behavioral specialist” at the VA if I owned guns. Of course I do. Then she said that I should lock up my guns because Vets have a high suicide rate. I told her that locking up my guns defeated the purpose of having them.

        If I want to kill myself, I’m going to kill myself. Locking up my guns isn’t going to stop me. They’re more interested in disarming veterans than helping them.

  3. Mistakes made by our forces are unfortunate but mostly unavoidable in time of war. Any complaints should be answered with a full explanation of the facts. The way to avoid such unfortunate conflicts, you must insure that your government does not allow insane people to commit mass murder against our countrymen. Have a nice day.

    • The crazies that were about to come home during Korea and VN were often fragged before they could get home. There were still plenty of incidents – maybe it has to do with the way we make war on other people.

  4. “A simple lock puts space between the thought and the trigger”
    and
    “The message they’re trying to convey is most suicides are an act of impulse. A veteran’s life may be saved if a little patience and deliberation is introduced into the equation”
    The time spent retrieving the container(safe, box etc) and manipulating the lock via a key or combination could provide time and distraction just enough for the veteran to change his mind about suicide. I can see how the odds of survival can increase when more time is introduced. Seems anything to delay the actual event is a good thing.

    • I can see how the odds of survival can increase when more time is introduced. Seems anything to delay the actual event is a good thing.

      OR, it could serve to further enrage an already unstable individual to the point where they go on a murderous rampage against those whom they see as the perpetrators of their misery before they end themselves..

    • I’m not a mental health professional, but I’ve known people who have committed suicide or had loved ones commit suicide. In my experience, suicides occur after a long time of suffering planning. A couple second delay isn’t going to matter. Advocating for a lock or blaming guns is a cheap, ineffective “do something” that doesn’t address the real problem and thus doesn’t produce positive results. The suffering needs to be addressed and removed, which isn’t cheap or easy. Effort has to be made to identify troubled individuals, who might be trying to hide the problem because of stigma or losing rights/security clearance. Once identification has be made, treatment needs to be more than sending someone home with a bottle of pills.

      There’s a trope of emotional immature people thinking their “life is over” after a breakup, failure, setback, etc. These would be an impulsive action, not the result of a chronic underlying problem. I don’t know how common they actually are, but veterans don’t fit that pattern.

  5. “the real focus should be on what is driving the dilemma and how best to put an end to it”

    what is driving the dilemma is the complete assault by the news/entertainment/education/social monopoly/collusion assault on every notion of manhood, adulthood, religion, and the greco/christian/germanic western civilization traditions that sustained america – that sustain any nation. our children simply are no longer raised or educated to be free-standing adults but rather to be passive cattle on a feedlot, and they react accordingly.

  6. These veterans and active duty personnel need to be treated for the root cause of their anxiety, depression, angst, et al that leads them to the choice to take or attempt to take their own lives. Start with the leadership they serve under… both military and civilian. These are the ones who put them in harms way without the necessary tools and support, tie the hands of the boots on the ground and prevent them achieving the goals the leaders themselves set. Then after all is said and done the veteran has to fight and jump through ridiculous hoops, wait months or sometimes years to be deemed worthy of receiving help from the VA… which in some instances is either substandard or lacking follow up.

    Many of our veterans make great sacrifices during their time in uniform and should be afforded the best of care possible from the nation and populace they served faithfully and honorably. Many endure sacrifices ranging from separation from family, missing milestones such as anniversaries, birthdays, child birth, death of parents and siblings, extended deployments and quick turn arounds to the next deployment… just to name a few. Not to mention serious injuries, and permanent disabilities.

    US Navy, Retired

    • “should be afforded the best of care possible”

      in theory sure. but how to pay for it? raise your taxes? print more debt currency?

      some things just can’t be done.

      • oh sure they can pay for it.
        1) Cut off ALL funding to illegal aliens.
        2) Require drug and alcohol testing, and work requirements, for all recipients of state and federal assistance. Pop hot? No money for 180 days.
        3) Cut all foreign aid to non treaty states.
        4) Allow Veterans to receive vouchers to get treatment outside of the VA.

        • That’s just crazy talk! /sarc

          You forgot…
          5) end funding of Green New Deal giveaways
          6) Get .gov out of the way of US energy pipeline and fracking

  7. Since 9/11 approximately 800,000 suicides have occurred in the US (average of 40000 annually) so the reality that 1500 of them were veterans or active duty military is NOT a big shock… What was it that pushed the OTHER 770,000 to take THEIR lives… Anyway a lock on a gun case is not going prevent a significant number of suicides as guns are only about 50% of all suicides and anyone determined to kill themselves will be able to figure out another way if they can’t get to their gun (or they can’t find their key)…

  8. I had a farrier who was a Bronze Star winner who just died at the age of 40 from a heart attack. He had several complaints about the Veterans Administration, one was they doled out drugs like it was candy, two the counselors had no idea what these guys experienced because they never were in combat, three he didn’t like the way they treated the older vets.

    So I would tend to agree with the author that focusing on firearms fall far short of what these folks really need once they return from the service particularly from hostile areas of the world and combat. But that’s our Government for you. Ask these people to protect their Country and then give them short shrift when they need us.

      • Your half hour is about up, I’ve got others waiting.
        “Yadda yadda yadda and then yadda yadda yadda, it was hell I tell yah”
        Okay ,have ‘We’ tried thorazine , I think well start you on that along with upping your lithium and prosaic. If you have any suicidal ,or emotional thoughts of violence, or self harm, heres a number you can call.
        1-900- Hot -,,puh,,,c,,,🤪 .
        It’ll do you more good

  9. Gun locks are cheaper than psychological evaluations and therapy, that’s the what drives the ads. It’s a bandaid on a sucking chest wound and they know it.

    They also don’t care. At all. The betrayal is in claiming that they do at the administrative level.

    Suicide might be stopped in the moment by a gun lock but the overarching mental pathology remains unaddressed. Until the underlying issues driving such a state are addressed the thought process can occur any time going forward and any tool at hand can be used to do the deed.

    Suddenly feeling suicidal while watching the crossing guards on a rail crossing drop? While working with a rope? While holding a knife? A bottle of Tylenol? A handful of benzos? While standing on the roof? Well, thank Christ it wasn’t the gun because then we’d have to virtue signal about this. Now we can just ignore it.

    Government agencies, like any large company or other bureaucratic structures give exactly zero fucks about you. They never did and they never will. In fact, they care more about convincing you that they care than actually caring. Image matters. Optics matter. Funding matters. You do not.

    • “Suicide might be stopped in the moment by a gun lock but the overarching mental pathology remains unaddressed. Until the underlying issues driving such a state are addressed the thought process can occur any time going forward and any tool at hand can be used to do the deed.”

      I’ve heard a common method in Japan is to simply step in front of a train arriving at a subway station.

      And that has the effect of seriously screwing up the emotional stability of the train drivers, burdening them with a lot of guilt.

      (Oh, what a wonderful world it would be… Not 🙁 )

  10. Bridges, ropes, train vs. car, and then the guy who drank liquid drano.
    Jumping off a bridge has people looking in the river. Train versus car leaves speculation and puking up drano guts is stinky.
    My vote goes to the rope

  11. Make all the commercials they want they are fucking POSs. 7yrs of documented military hearing loss only to be called a liar by them. If that’s how they do someone then how do you think they’ll treat a real issue? I’ll never go back to them for myself.

    I spent 6 hrs before getting to talk to someone trying to stop a suicide. I sent a text to the VA while I was in the phone with him only to get an automated call back 15 minutes later telling me to call a number. That number led to nowhere.

    These two incidents have given me all the information I need about them. Got no response from my representative. All I wanted was a hearing aid. Finally got it when my father in law passed. I wear his. Health benefits upon separation my ass. Don’t believe it.

    Been trying to put this behind me. Now I’m mad again

  12. Sorry for the long post but I think it’s worth a read. Here’s a factor in Veteran/Military suicides most people don’t realize. I was Active Duty military for 20 years, retiring in 2014.

    I was a medic and I was “stuck” at a base I didn’t like for 10 years, I could not get orders out of there so I decided I was going to apply for a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) assignment. For those that don’t know, that’s the starting point for any potential military recruit to take his or her ASVAB test, physical, swear in etc.

    The first step for anyone wanting to join is to talk with a recruiter, and let me tell you something, I’ve met some really good recruiters, but I’ve met a lot more that felt the pressure (they and their recruiting offices have quotas) that would do or say just about anything to potential recruits. Up to and including instructing recruits to lie or “withhold” information. Even my own recruiter way back, told me “the less the medical staff at MEPS knows, the better”. All recruits would have to complete a medical questionnaire called a DD form 2807-2 which basically asks if you have had any medical issues including mental health diagnosis. I cannot tell you how many recruits would answer no to every question on that form, which their recruiter had them complete. I mean, some of it was actually comical where they would answer no to never having any medical history, no surgeries etc. the problem was the kid would be examined by a doctor at MEPS. We would see obvious surgical scars exactly where an ACL surgery was, or surgical scars over the appendix, or in several cases a surgical scar on their chest where they literally had open heart surgery. When a recruit was ready for their physical, MEPS medical staff would complete a mass briefing to fill out a brand new DD 2807-2 going through every question. Just prior to completing that form, medical staff had to read a “Fradulent Enlistment” warning, which stated that lying or withholding information on this form could be punishable under article 83 of the UCMJ. We had thousands of kids that would come up to us after the briefing and say, my recruiter told me to answer no for everything but I do have some medical history, will this disqualify me?

    Now finally I’m getting to the point about suicides. We had some honest kids who would “come clean” but we had tens of thousands of kids that didn’t. The most concerning in relation to suicides is if they had any mental health diagnoses. We could see a scar, but without the recruit disclosing any mental health diagnosis, we would have never known, unless they were displaying any mental health issues that specific day. Imagine having a mental health history, joining the military completing basic, go to your first duty station and deploy within 6-12 months. That’s a recipe for disaster.

    As you can imagine, with OIF/OEF the pressures were great on recruiters, which by the way had a pretty significant suicide rate as well. The numbers I provided were at one MEPS station, there are (or were at that time) 65 MEPS station across the US. How many kids “snuck” through with pre-existing mental health issues? Listen, I am in no way saying that every military member or Veteran suicide had a pre-existing mental health issue prior to joining. But I’d be willing to say that there are thousands that did and that should concern everyone.

    Hell, when I was in basic we had at least 5 people threaten suicide. Some may have been legit but it was also a common tactic to get out of basic training if they couldn’t handle it. When I left basic I went to Tech school for 5-6 months and because I was a medic, we had a clinical phase where you would go to a large hospital for several months to work on the floor under supervision of course. I went to Wilford Hall Medical Centerright back at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, where Air Force basic training is. At that time, Wilford Hall was a level 1 trauma center. We rotated through the mental health unit. It was full of young recruits who had threatened suicide in basic and were out in a med hold before being processed out.

    14 out of my 20 years Active Duty I worked in ER’s or Ambulance Services. I lost count of how many suicides or suicidal ideation calls I responded to in that time.

    If you take anything away from my rambling post, if you know anyone who wants to join the military, maybe your son or daughter or nephew/niece, if they have a mental health diagnosis, do NOT let them underestimate the pressures of a military life. It can have drastic consequences. Let’s go Brandon!

  13. It is painfully clear the author, Alan Mosley, is not a combat veteran. He has no idea what he is talking about. This is obvious to any actual combat veteran.

    Please, anyone reading this, I know so many of you want to help, but please don’t pay attention to anything you read in that article, or anything that sounds like it. It’s misguided do-gooder bullshit.

    Here are some important things to consider:

    1. Seven in ten veterans who commit suicide are over the age of 50.
    2. Veterans who have served in actual ground combat are less ikely to commit suicide than veterans who have not. Read that again.

    Looking at the real data, it’s not the “horrors of combat” or some kind of regret over what they have done that leads most veterans to kill themselves, because most of the veterans that kill themselves have never experienced combat.

    • “2. Veterans who have served in actual ground combat are less ikely to commit suicide than veterans who have not. Read that again.”

      Can you offer any insight on why that might be?

      Does combat ‘de-sensitize’ (so to speak) people who have seen death up close?

      • My guess, from my own experience, is the feeling of accomplishment that you get from combat. You spend all that time training to do it, and then you get to do your actual job. A whole lot of folks in the army don’t get to do that, and many leave to satisfied because of it.

  14. The War on Terror is a lie.

    Terror isn’t an enemy to be defeated; it’s a human emotion, and like love, fear, hate, it can’t be got rid of by going to war against people who either have it or are judged to cause it.

    Declaring war on an ineradicable component of the human psyche is pointless and doomed to failure…unless that IS the point. The government can always point to someone, somewhere, who can be accused of causing terror to someone else. Victory isn’t the point. Endless war — and endless profit for the bugmen in charge — is.

    I don’t know what this has to do with suicide rates, if anything. (Would these veterans likely have killed themselves if they hadn’t been in the military? Who’s to know…) I do know that the entire context of this conversation revolves around the false premise of the “war on terror.” And fewer people involved in the endless, pointless war machine that’s been spun up over the past 20 years would mean, by definition, fewer veterans committing suicide.

  15. Most suicides are not impulsive. Trust me. It’s something that brews inside and festers for long periods. If this writer understands depression and helping vets, he would know that.

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