By now everyone is aware that suicide in the military is a problem. But there are a few things that nobody is saying. People all want to talk about “preventing suicide” – but nobody wants to talk about mitigating, reversing, or preventing the factors that cause soldiers, sailors, airmen & Marines to take, or attempt to take, their lives.
From a 2013 July Stars and Stripes article:
The most recent Department of Defense annual suicide report said 301 service members killed themselves in 2011. Nearly 89 percent came from the regular armed forces, with 7 percent from National Guard units and 4 percent from the Reserves.
Another 915 service members tried to kill themselves but did not succeed.
There could be as many as THREE attempted suicides for every completed suicide, and one of the biggest factors appears to be that service members are afraid to seek out counseling. From that same article:
Since 2005, the Idaho Veterans Network has sought out struggling active-duty personnel and veterans. She said those service members who are depressed are better able to relate to someone with a similar military background.
“People are scared of going in for counseling but they’re glad to talk with another combat veteran,” Bernard said.
Service members feel more comfortable talking to their own. Then why do VA and DOD continue to rely on civilian contractor doctors? Sometimes these doctors are not even Americans, who not only do not share the service members’ military experience but do not even have context for the American military culture. Further, because they were not raised in American culture, these doctors do not possess the faculty to relate to service members in a societal context. It is a simple fact of the human experience that all cultures literally think differently. A native Indian from Mumbai or a native Chinese from Shanghai is not going to have the ability to relate to or understand a 22-year old infantry Marine from Boise, Idaho. It isn’t discrimination. It isn’t bigotry. It is just cold, hard fact. Your average American civilian isn’t even really going to be able to comprehend what makes an 0311 Marine tick.
Service members need other service members to talk to. It works. It is proven. It is why NCOs are trained to counsel soldiers, and it is why Chaplains receive training on comfort and succor.