It has been reported over and over again that the Army has a high suicide rate. That is not news to commanders or our civilian leadership, or to the Soldiers themselves, nor should it be news to the American society as a whole.
But suicide is not an Army-exclusive issue or one that only the Army can find the cure for.
Suicide in our military is a U.S. issue, one the whole country needs to get behind. It begins at the individual level and really getting to know what it means to be a Soldier and take a real interest in what a Soldier does.
Less than two percent of our society has ever served in the military so they cannot relate to the life and experience of a Soldier. For me, someone who has to explain Army life to the public, I find it harder and harder to get the public to understand how we work and what we do, let alone why we do it.
Soldiers experience many things that are not common to the average American, which for society is a good thing. Most Americans do not center their jobs or careers around defending their country, while providing for their Families.
USA Today recently reported a new study that said the number one reason Soldiers attempt to commit suicide is “a desire to end intense emotional distress.” It also states that the Soldiers in the study, 72 Soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., often listed other common reasons for suicide such as the urge to end chronic sadness, a means of escaping people or a way to express desperation.
The web’s “Suicide.org” says suicides are brought on by negative life experiences such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, separation, or breakup of a relationship, losing custody of children, or feeling that a child custody decision is not fair; a serious loss, such as a loss of a job, house, or money; feeling “trapped” in a situation perceived as negative, and a feeling of not being accepted by Family, friends, or society, as well as 24 other negative life experiences.
The possible causes for suicide found in the Fort Carson study and those listed by Suicide.org can be experienced by anyone, not just Soldiers.
But what sticks out to me is Suicide.org’s, “A feeling of not being accepted by Family, friends, or society.”
While on call, I’ve had wives and Family members call looking for information but they cannot tell me the Soldier’s unit nor what they do. Normally I hear something like, “I don’t understand the Army life” or “I don’t know, he wears a uniform and is in the Army.”
How can they really accept the Soldier’s life if they don’t even try to understand what it is the Soldier does or why?
American society has done a great job saying they support our Army and the Soldier, but do they really understand what it is the Army does? If they don’t, then how can they accept the Soldiers lifestyle and understand their experiences? How can they be part of the solution in lowering our suicide rate?
Maybe our society needs to have a little more understanding of what it means to be a Soldier and really care.