A recent Pentagon study revealed alarming statistics about suicides in the military. So far this year, there has been an average of one suicide per day among U.S. servicemen and women– a total of 154 deaths. To put that in perspective, 136 soldiers died in combat in Afghanistan over the same period of time.
On Public Radio International’s To the Point program yesterday, host Warren Olney spoke with several guests on what they termed the spike in suicides as an “epidemic” problem for the U.S. military. Though suicides leveled off in 2010 and 2011, experts point to a litany of reasons for 2012 trend, including post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, traumatic brain injuries, financial stress, and prescription drug abuse. One guest on To the Point suggested that the chronic overuse of anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and sleep medication like Ambien–with some soldiers taking three or four times the prescribed amount during any given day–leads to major depressive episodes after they are redeployed back to the United States and removed from the drugs “cold turkey”.
David Finkel of the Washington Post has covered both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past ten years. In a event hosted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, he discussed his conversations with returning veterans and observed up-close how war changed them.