The Veteran Suicide Crisis

How does PTSD affect the well being of veterans and other victims? 

If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

In recent years, there has been a growing epidemic of veteran suicide rates throughout the United States.17

  • 30% of veterans suffer from suicidal ideation, which means that they are constantly planning or have the idea of attempting to kill themselves.23

  • 22 veterans commit suicide every days23

High Suicide Rate Among Recent Veterans

Compared to the civilian population, veterans are fifty percent more likely of committing suicide. However, older veterans had a larger chance of committing suicide than younger veterans. Over the years, however, civilian and veteran suicide rates have been climbing: veterans by 2 percent and civilians by 1 percent.22

Contributing Factors to suicidal thoughts in PTSD victims

  • Refusing to talk about their experiences causes victims to bottle up their emotions and not be able to organize their horrific thoughts. These thoughts make life so unbearable that they feel the only relief is to kill themselves.21

  • When they hear of other soldiers committing suicide, it makes them question why they should live and they feel guilty because of it. As more and more kill themselves, they feel that it is destined for them to die too, so they commit suicide.21

  • To block out these horrific memories from active duty, many turn to alcohol and other sources of numbing, such as depressants. This can lead to turning others away and the feeling of numbness contributes to suicidal ideation19.

  • Normal life is so different from their life in combat that they feel they have nothing left to excite them or fill them with energy.23

Parallel between combat and suicide

As soldiers have to kill and watch others die in combat, they begin to feel guilt of “why did I survive and not them?” This constant feeling of guilt can build up and lead to suicidal ideation in veterans. However being in combat is not the same thing as being deployed. Many deployed soldiers never even see or participate in combat during their time in service. 21It is the soldiers that are placed in combat that are more likely of being affected by PTSD, due to the horrific events they witness and carry out.22

Here is a graph displaying how those who go into combat and suicide correlate.

                                           Why the Veteran Suicide Rate has Increased                                                                                                                               

  • Support groups of PTSD veterans have attempted to connect fellow sufferers together so that they can bond over their issues and not feel alone. However this has backfired because when one of the veterans commit suicide, his fellow veterans, who have become close to him, feel compelled to do the same. All in all, PTSD support groups have helped to increase the rate of suicide among veterans18

  • In 2005 when there was an increase of soldiers being sent to the middle east in Iraq and Afghanistan because of the Iraq War, there was an increase in PTSD because of the close combat and the amount of civilians being exposed to combat and violence, so more people overall became diagnosed with PTSD22.

  • There is not enough funding for mental health so therapy and prescribed medicine does not always help and there is not enough variety in treatment for every victim to find something that works for them. The failure in the medical industry to treat it and the surge of soldiers coming from Iraq and Afghanistan makes a mix for more suicide since the PTSD is not being treated22.

  • Now that PTSD has been diagnosed and given a name and the public knows about it, stereotypes arise. Stereotypes of dangerous, violent, and unstable veterans encourage employers to deny jobs to veterans. People also avoid the veterans at social gatherings because of the fear to set them on a violent rampage which contributes to isolate the veteran socially. Being isolated makes the veterans feel as though they are alone and this loneliness aids in suicidal ideation. Since PTSD and mental health in general has only been improving and building itself recently, stereotypes still are very powerful as to how the public views veterans and victims which is very powerful in  determining the victims' mindset21.