GI suicides exceed deaths in combat

Dr. Gary D. Kohls, writing in Evergreene Digest, discussed the reasons for the rising rate of suicide among American troops in Afghanistan.  More troops have died by their own hand so far this year than were killed in combat.

The suicide rate in the US military, prior to 2001, approximated that of the general population.  In the years since the Bush Wars, the suicide rate has risen to double the national average, and, just like after the Vietnam War, it is certain to go higher.

When wars result in suicide numbers that exceed those killed in action (KIA) or missing in action (MIA), something is wrong and there should be a hue and cry demanding to know the reasons why.  And we also should be questioning the reasons behind the secret decisions to send mentally and physically healthy soldiers “into harm’s way,” where they become preventable emotional and spiritual casualties.

It needs to be pointed out that no data are kept on the rate of suicidal thinking among veterans – another devastating consequence of having once been a killing soldier.   In every war, the brass keep suicide statistics secret or deceptively low – a secrecy that applies to the KIA count as well.   Also not counted are those mortally wounded soldiers who died after clearing Iraqi or Afghani air space en route to military hospitals elsewhere.


An alarming number of combat soldiers are being given brain-altering psych drugs to numb their emotional pain, chemically stimulate their low mood, quell the understandable anxiety or produce a chemically-induced semi-coma that might temporarily suppress the horrific nightmares and guarantee a night’s sleep.

Along with these prescription drugs (that are acknowledged to just suppress or otherwise alter symptoms but never cure anything), the neurologically altered brains of these psychologically traumatized soldiers are highly likely to become addicted to the substances, just like many of their civilian counterparts back home who might also have been falsely-labeled with a mental illness diagnosis.  Both categories of emotionally stressed-out patients are all-too-often told that they need to stay on their potentially disabling chemical straight jackets for the rest of their lives!  In reality, both the civilians and the soldiers alike may only be experiencing a situation of temporary “overwhelm” of known etiology that is likely to be curable without the long-term use of brain-altering drugs.

Of course, it is well-known that many psychiatric drugs dramatically increase the incidence of suicidal thinking and can commonly cause many other adverse effects that can easily be misdiagnosed as symptoms of a so-called mental illness.

The high suicide rate among American troops is widely discussed inside and outside the military.  The usual frame of reference is the need for more and better psychiatric services and for troops to accept the fact they may need counseling.  I’m in favor of all these things, of course.  But my guess is the high suicide rate will continue so long as there are repeated deployments to Afghanistan (sometimes four or more) and use of psychiatric drugs on the battlefield.

Click on Psychiatrist Analyzes Suicide & The Soldier to read the whole Kohls article.  You may or may not like his strident political rhetoric, but that is less important than what he reports is happening to American troops and veterans.

Click on Suicides are surging among US troops, Pentagon statistics show for a June report from Associated Press.

Click on Army suicide rate in July hits highest one-month tally for a report from USA Today.

Click on Army funds research on anti-suicide nasal spray for a report from Business Insider.

Hat tip to John J. Fitzgerald.

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One Response to “GI suicides exceed deaths in combat”

  1. C Destar Says:

    It seems that there is something deeply wrong is this ” defense war” 10000 miles away from home ! And it has nothing to do with medicine !
    US soldiers come from the people of USA. They are not religiously tied to a “crusade” , which could justify commiting any crimes in the name of god , like in Israel . So, Its horrible , but ,seen from outside the USA , we must admit that this suicide rate is the ultimate clue of the good human quality of these young american souls . Daily killing kids & women , for no acceptable reason … and feeling no disease would be much more scaring from a human point of view .
    The war goals of AIPAC , which are those of present US Army out of USA, are impossible to accept , for a mentally sane human being.
    When the main goal of these peace-time wars is to consume the products of an almighty war industry , the “human ” factor can’t exist elsewhere than in movies.


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