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Army Says Stress of War on Soldiers' Marriages, Pers. Lives is Helping Boost Suicides

Discussion in 'News, Politics & Debates' started by goingonhope, Aug 17, 2007.

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  1. goingonhope

    goingonhope Member Premium Member

    Army Says Stress of War on Soldiers' Marriages, Personal Lives is Helping Boost Suicides

    By Pauline Jelinek

    August 16, 07

    WASHINGTON - It's not just the war. Or the hardship of being far from home. Often it's the age-old, heartbreaking "Dear John" notes from wives and sweethearts that drive soldiers to suicide.

    Love and marriage problems were cited Thursday as the main reasons for the record rate of suicides in an Army stretched and stressed by two simultaneous wars.

    Announcing a new report on suicides, officials said nearly a third of 99 committed in 2006 were among soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time of their deaths. Iraq accounted for the overwhelming number of those * 27 of the 30.

    About half the Army suicides last year, the most since the first Iraq war, in 1991, were soldiers who hadn't reached their 25th birthdays.

    And the primary factor in 70 percent to 80 percent of the cases was "failed intimate relationships, failed marriages," said Col. Elspeth Ritchie, psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general.

    "Very often a young soldier gets a 'Dear John' or 'Dear Jane' e-mail and then takes his weapon and shoots himself," she explained.

    Ritchie told a Pentagon news conference that although the military is worried about the stress caused by repeat deployments and tours of duty that have been stretched to 15 months, it has not found a direct relationship between suicides and combat or deployments.

    "However, we do know that frequent deployments put a real strain on relationships, especially on marriages," she said.

    "So we believe that part of the increase is related to the increased stress in relationships."

    The report resonated on Army bases and among war supporters and critics around the nation.

    "It can get pretty depressing even when you're not in harm's way," said Sgt. Carlene Bishop, a 25-year-old from Reading, Pa., who serves in the 10th Mountain Division and returned from Iraq in May. "You're away from home, you have to put your life on hold. I know soldiers whose marriages have broken up or who couldn't pay their bills."

    Carol Banks, whose husband is a chaplain for a battalion preparing for another deployment from Fort Hood in Texas later this year, said soldiers are under tremendous stress *young and suddenly faced with war on top of the regular struggles of finances and family life.

    "It just piles up, one thing on top of another," said Banks.

    "There is help available, but I think a lot of soldiers don't want to use it."

    The 2006 total * the highest rate in 26 years of record-keeping and the largest raw figure in 15 years * came despite Army efforts to set up new programs and strengthen old ones for providing mental health care to a force stretched by the longer-than-expected conflict in Iraq and with the global counterterrorism war entering its sixth year.

    The Army has sent medical teams annually to the battlefront in Iraq to survey troops, health care providers and chaplains. It has revised training programs and bolstered suicide prevention, is trying to hire more psychiatrists and other mental health professionals and is in the midst of an extensive program to teach all soldiers how to recognize mental health problems in themselves and others to overcome a culture that attaches a stigma to seeking help.

    "I am deeply concerned but not surprised" by the new report, said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. She cited the stresses of longer and repeated tours of duty and her suspicion that many in the military don't understand how to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

    "I think there is just an inner denial among some that PTSD is 'you're just not tough enough,"' she said.

    The Army has been working to overcome the stigma associated with getting therapy for mental problems after finding that troops were avoiding counseling out of fear it could harm their careers.

    Among findings in the new report:

    • Of the 99 suicides, 30 were soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time of their deaths, 27 of them in Iraq.

    • Sixty-nine were committed by troops who were not deployed in either war, though there were no figures immediately available on whether they had previously been sent to the war zones.

    ------ Read More On: ------

    Army says stress of war on soldiers' marriages, personal lives is helping boost suicides. By Pauline Jelinek, August 16, 07

    WASHINGTON - • In a half million-person Army, the toll translated into a rate of 17.3 per 100,000, the highest since the Army started counting in 1980. The rate has fluctuated over the years, with the low being 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the suicide rate for U.S. overall was about 11 per 100,000 in 2004, the latest year for which the agency has figures. The Army said that when civilian rates are adjusted to cover the same age and gender mix that exists in the Army, the rate is more like 19 to 20 per 100,000.

    • The 99 confirmed suicides compare with 87 in 2005 and are the highest number since 102 were reported in 1991, the year of the Persian Gulf War, when there were more soldiers on active duty. Investigations are pending on two suspected suicides last year.

    • About a quarter of those who killed themselves had a history of at least one psychiatric disorder. Of those, about 20 percent had been diagnosed with a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder and/or depression, and about 8 percent had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, including post traumatic stress disorder - a signature injury of the conflict in Iraq.

    • Firearms were the most common method of suicide. Those who attempted suicide but did not succeed tended more often to take overdoses and cut themselves.

    Tracy Willis, whose husband is a finance officer in Iraq, said even though her husband works mostly inside a base, "There's no safe job in the Army."

    "Being over there is a dangerous place," said Willis. When her husband returned home to Fort Hood for a break, she noticed he was jumpy in his sleep, unlike himself.

    "It was a big scare," she said. "I don't want him to come home and feel he can't handle this."

    Though the Army has boosted programs for family members as well, Willis, 24, said she's not sure what kind of help or information is available for soldiers like her husband. She's heard discussions of post-traumatic stress disorder but wouldn't know where to turn.
    Associated Press writers Michelle Roberts in San Antonio and William Kates in Fort Drum, N.Y., contributed to this report.

    Source: Washington Post
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  3. goingonhope

    goingonhope Member Premium Member

    Fractured Futures, Failing Marriages

    Fractured Futures, Failing Marriages

    By John T. McDonald, Guest columnist

    To say the life-threatening rigors of war create stressful changes and adjustments for young families is such a tame phrase.

    It doesn’t begin to touch the range of rancor and rage that can eat away at the lifestyles upon which a marriage was initially joined because essential meanings and perspectives have been roughly altered without being thoroughly understood, let alone examined.

    Indeed, one of the causes of disrupted marriages among military personnel can be the inability or the unwillingness to verbalize basic challenges to formerly comfortable inner beliefs, habits or customs and share them with an intimate other. These stresses come about due to having to live day-to-day in a constantly on-duty environment that is devoid of our normal, safe, social expectations.

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the name given to a constellation of symptoms that may present early, but usually later, in a person’s life following sudden or persistent harsh threats or injury experienced on the battlefield.

    At one time, it was called “shell shock,” later, “battle fatigue.” Treatments varied. None were 100 percent successful.

    Some manifestations are relatively mild, others are definitely disruptive and can be awkward, even dangerous, to others.

    For instance, it may be difficult to explain to a wife why her man avoids going out anywhere there may be fireworks simulating explosions of a real battlefield, or, while at a calm social gathering, for him to hit the deck, fearing too-well recalled incoming automatic gunfire when it is merely backfires from a passing auto. With PTSD, the ex-soldier thinks he is being attacked and instantly goes into reptile-brain, self-preservation mode.

    It is often a frustrating effort to encourage the veteran to seek professional therapy. This is usually difficult to implement because of the myth perpetuated by some superiors in the military that to acknowledge mental stress is evidence of artifice or a sign of weakness, either of which is “unmanly.”

    Such guilt trips are not in the best interests of a truly effective and functioning military wherever assigned. The syndrome is hard enough to diagnose. No judgmental complications to further muddy the waters are needed. Uninformed, ignorant attitudes are not just stupid, they are essentially evil.

    Among the 460 congressional hearings on Capitol Hill since January, at least one touched upon hospital care and treatment for returning soldiers experiencing PTSD. This is encouraging.

    Even more recently, according to a separate report, some hope is emerging for treatment by oral medication. Early laboratory testing is under way. It literally helps people with PTSD to slowly forget or integrate any massive visceral experience so that life can more rapidly return to normal in civilian surroundings. Such a pill may be years away, but there may be some hope for fractured futures and failing marriages among our military.

    That is, of course, if our society does not abuse the use of yet another pill.

    Source: The Joplin Globe, MO
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