This is a great story about healing from moral injury. Tragically, it highlights something that has completely changed since I first joined the Marine Corps in 1987. Veteran suicide rates are now much higher than the population at large. Back in 1987, veteran and military suicide rates were about 40% lower than the population at large.
“We know that the suicide rate is climbing across the United States for all Americans and in all states. But veterans are also unique: the suicide rate in the military doubled in the first decade of 2000 and had remained elevated ever since,” said Rajeev Ramchand, a behavioral scientist and fellow at the veteran support-focused Bob Woodruff Foundation. “And the youngest group of veterans, those 18-34, have the highest suicide rate. This suggests to me that there is also something specific about the recent military experience that is contributing to suicide risk.”
Rajeev correctly points out that this is a new phenomena. Now back to the moral injury mention. The reporter writes
The wincing memories of doing or witnessing horrific things that collided with his fundamental beliefs – the “moral injury” – walked like a shadow alongside him and inside him, propelling him toward suicide as a means to end the pain and suffering.
But this is what the former Secretary of VA says
“You have to approach this very much like one of the really top health issues, like cancer,” said Dr. David Shulkin, former Secretary for Veterans Affairs (VA) and author of the new book “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Serve Your Country.” “This is going to be a long-term journey and try to address the issues surrounding brain health.”
I vehemently disagree that it’s a “brain health” issue, insofar as we are talking about PTSD or moral injury. In fairness, this is probably true for TBI (traumatic brain injury, more commonly known as repeated concussions). However, Rajeev and the reporter seem to get it right…something about recent military experience is contributing. As a two time combat veteran myself, I would say that the moral justifications of our current, ongoing wars are weak to say the least. Not to mention the repeated deployments, stop gapping, and the high use of reserve forces. The latter is the unspoken elephant in the room–I should know, I was a reservists both times that I got activated and sent to a war zone.