This week we celebrate our freedom as a nation. We recognize that freedom has come with a significant price. This price was paid by many brave men and women who served in the military. They have given so much that we might enjoy our freedoms and our ability to live in a land with considerable prosperity, in spite of what we have experienced in the recent economic crisis.
Unfortunately, things have not gone well for our veterans
It appears the war has caused such scars of intense depression and PTSD among veterans that we see a substantial problem with suicide. While we may first think of young veterans as those most vulnerable, interestingly enough, the rate of suicide has grown the most in those age 50 and older.
This past year, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs released an alarming study. Though we were aware currently enlisted military are committing over 340 suicides in a year, or almost one per day, the picture becomes more dismal. If we look at the entire picture—current military and veterans—approximately one individual takes his life every 65 minutes.
Our total veteran suicide rate has risen to almost 22 per day. I don’t know how that impacts you, but for me it is an embarrassing tragedy.
The impact reaches deeper than you think
You see, this tragedy affects more than the life of the veteran. It also impacts his spouse, children, family members and friends. The level of tragedy for the families of veterans becomes life-dominating.
Like PTSD, other prominent health and mental health disorders are creating a crisis that overwhelms the system of care available to veterans.
Although there are many qualified, committed people working with our veterans, there are simply not enough hours in the day to meet the rising mental health needs. Also, many of our veterans have physical wounds that manifest a significant set of deficits for them and leave them questioning their confidence and ability to function. These additional needs must be met.
Money is not the only resource needed.
I recognize that trillions of dollars have been invested to help our veterans. However, quite frankly, we still have yet to put a dent in the crisis experienced among those who have served their country to protect our freedoms. There is much more to become aware of, and I plan to post on the imperative set of issues facing so many veteran’s families in America.
We must make sweeping changes in order for us to truly honor those who have sacrificed their lives for the very freedoms we celebrate on July 4th.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network