Ranger Up Talks Suicide: When the Brotherhood is Gone

Updated: September 14, 2015


By Kerry Patton

With suicide prevention month among us, it is critical to look at the dilemma from a standpoint of “loss.” Many professional psychologists have looked at military and veteran suicides and attempted to uncover why the issue is actually growing. I have heard of plenty of reasons ranging from neuro-toxic drugs prescribed such as Mefloquin to the claim of post-traumatic stress disorder. Very few actually address the concept of “loss” as a trigger for suicide.

Prior to moving forward, it is critical readers understand that I am not a certified psychologist. Nothing written from here forward comes with any scientific backings. These are just my thoughts on the subject. Also, readers will note, I am not providing any suggestions or treatment options for those contemplating suicide. This is for legal reasons.

According to some reports, it is estimated that one veteran takes his/her life every 65 minutes–that’s twenty-two a day. The DoD estimates nine suicides occur every day within the ranks. The issue I have with these findings is the fact that none of the reports outline age brackets for those committing suicide nor do they depict whether veterans and present day uniform wearers are calculated together in the “twenty-two a day” category.

You see, in the United States, it is estimated that 30,000 suicides occur annually. This is according to Save.org (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education). According to the same report, “The highest suicide rate is among men over 85 years old: 65 per 100,000 persons.” This suggests age does play a factor in America’s suicide epidemic.

So now the question needing to be addressed for veteran suicides is age. How old is the average veteran taking their own life? This is important to address because as we get older we naturally begin to face the struggles of loss—loss of friends, loss of family, loss of whatever.

With loss comes a state of loneliness and despair. When you leave the service you do leave behind a brotherhood unlike anything anyone could ever imagine. But not only do you leave a brotherhood, you leave a life of a regimented routine. How people adapt to such loss varies.

I cannot claim veterans of older generations commit suicide more frequently than those in our current generation considering no evidence exists proving such claim. But for me, it does make sense when you look at the largest pool of Americans committing suicide annually—elderly males.

Do veterans who served in WWII, Korea, or Vietnam commit suicide more frequently than those who recently served in Iraq or Afghanistan? I don’t know that answer but it would make sense. And, if this does make sense, maybe professionals addressing the topic of suicide need to pay closer attention to the principle of “loss.”




One Comment

  1. Murphy

    September 11, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I am not over 65. Hell, I’m only 37.
    So, this isn’t quite easy to admit, but I have not been fine for a while. I deal with every day the best I can. I say this just to relate to the topic, though.
    You see, I have a couple buddies and when I am around them regularly, I’m pretty good. When I first got out, I didn’t keep up with any of my buddies. I tried to be the Oregon pseudo-hippy I was before I enlisted. This didn’t work, mind you; but I tried.
    I think some of the issues I have had, or do have, are directly related to the fact that while I have friends, and even some friends who were enlisted and/or officers, I don’t have any buddies from my unit that I ever see in person any more; not regularly, anyway.
    Putting that together, I imagine that a vet who has gone through the Danté-esque hell of the Frozen Chosin, or lived through the jungle terror of Vietnam, or even sat by to watch the cartels in South America or the massacre of civilians on the border of Tanzania (Yay for LRS!), would have a ton more trouble dealing with things when they don’t have a buddy anymore.
    And if they’re over 85, buddies might be a little thin on the ground.
    I’ve been thinking of the need for vets to do VFW outreach kinda stuff. Maybe it’s time.
    So many different groups have assistance for the old timers of their profession, and the only thing we really have are VFW halls, which are not really what they were. Maybe they need to be what they were, once again. Perhaps they need to be more.
    This article suggests it, and I don’t disagree.

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