The discontent of thousands of service members and veterans face every day has become strikingly apparent, according to a report by the Associated Press, which shows suicide to be 50 percent more likely the cause of death in the military than a service member dying in combat.
The death rate averaged out to nearly one suicide a day with 154 suicides in the first 155 days of 2012. This means that more U.S. armed forces active service members have lost their lives in the first six months of 2012 than in the first six months of any of the previous 11 years.
The Army has been keeping track of fatalities since 2009, and reported in July that 38 soldiers committed suicide, a substantial jump from 24 deaths in June.
Since the beginning of the war on terror in 2001, there has been an average of one suicide every 36 hours in the U.S. armed forces.
San Diego State has a large military population on its campus. Located on Fraternity Row, the Student Veteran’s Organization strives to create a strong support system for student veterans, dependents and active duty members.
Paul Contreras, a veteran deployed to Kuwait in 2003 and also to Iraq in 2006, is now a nursing and psychology double major at SDSU. Contreras wants his fellow servicemen and women to know help is available.
“Even if it’s not official help, talk to someone else, because there is no reason for us to come back and commit suicide, when we just survived all that—being shot at, and being bombed,” Contreras said. “You go through all that and commit suicide, that’s not the way it should go.”
Civilians and family members may have a hard time understanding what soldiers and veterans must endure emotionally, but there are many organizations, including the military itself, available to ensure the psychological well-being of men and women who serve.
Andrew Lovick, a Navy veteran and communications major, said things are looking better for veterans, especially with Brig. Gen. Robert Hedlund’s recent admission that “It’s OK not to be OK.”
“I’ve had a lot of friends who I’ve had to help them seek help, because they didn’t want people to see them as weak, it’s a big stigma out there, but it’s getting a lot better,” Lovick said.
SDSU is taking strides to help support those who served and are serving in the military. At the Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center located in Student Services West 1575, veterans can receive services such as campus housing, educational and counseling programs and rehabilitation therapy.
September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. Today, on 9/11 veterans and active military servicemen and women need to know that America is a community that cherishes their bravery.