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Ask a Vet
Author: TriSec    Date: 01/05/2016 11:33:39

Good Morning.

It's 2016...but the more the calendar changes, the more things stay the same on the Veteran's Front. We'll visit with our old friends at IAVA this morning, and this disturbing story about veteran suicides:

According to a new report released this week by the Pentagon, there was a significant increase in the number of Active and Reserve Component suicides in the third quarter of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

For the Active Component, the number of suicides in the third quarter of 2015 was 72, compared to 57 in the third quarter of 2014. For all branches of the Active Component, there were increases in the number of suicides from the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015.

Within the Reserve Component, the number of suicides in the third quarter of 2015 was 70, compared to 48 in the third quarter of 2014. For the Reserve Component, the only branch that did not see an increase in suicides was the Air Force, which saw no change from 2014 to 2015. The annual Department of Defense Suicide Event Report (DoDSER), which includes suicide attempts and deaths, is available here.

In IAVA’s Member Survey, 47 percent of respondents know at least one Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide, while 40 percent of respondents know someone who has died by suicide and a staggering 31 percent of respondents have thought about taking their own life.

A goodly number of veterans in that situation share a common thread - traumatic brain injury. While there has been much research done on that front in the past decade, it never feels like it's quite enough. Then there is the ongoing problem with stigma and "manliness" regarding seeking help. But there is positive news to report on both fronts.

Tens of thousands of American combat veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan with undiagnosed brain injuries often were "thrown into a canyon" -- falling deeper into despair and sometimes flirting with suicide or addiction -- before trying to get help, according to a Johns Hopkins University study.

Written by Rachel P. Chase, Shannon A. McMahon and Peter J. Winch, researchers at the Baltimore university's Department of International Health, the study published in the December issue of Social Science and Medicine builds on previous work at Johns Hopkins. That work uncovered tens of thousands of undiagnosed and untreated brain injuries stemming from improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the signature wound of America's 21st-century wars.

Innovations in body and vehicular armor saved the lives of troops who likely would have died of blast injuries in past wars, but survivors often had higher risk of memory loss, cognitive struggles, mood disorders, migraine headaches, addiction, insomnia and suicide.


The study found that veterans exposed to another bomb blast after 2010 -- when the military increased its efforts to diagnose and treat every brain injury from war or training -- often had better outcomes than those who were not wounded again.

Chase credited such post-2010 help to an evolving "social dynamic" within the military. Commanders now make sure troops get screened for potential concussions and are more likely to keep them out of training or off the battlefield until doctors clear them, she said.

The bigger problem is the "no, not, never code" that GIs adopt to deny exposure to blasts because they don't want to abandon their buddies in the fight and the bureaucratic red tape that continues to ensnare combat veterans who often display symptoms that could apply not just to traumatic brain injury, or TBI, but other invisible wounds of war, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD, according to Chase.

"One of the vets in the study told us what it was like," she said. "You go to one clinic, and they tell you, 'Oh, that's TBI.' Then you go to another clinic, and they say, 'No, that's PTSD.' Back and forth and you're still untreated."

And here we'll stop for today. I apologize for the thin blog, but most of the stories I had saved didn't age well over the holiday break. There's still plenty more going on, and we'll carry on for 2016 as we always have.

17 comments (Latest Comment: 01/05/2016 20:14:43 by Mondobubba)
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