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Military Suicide Rates
Each year, more than 700,000 people around the world die because of suicide. Suicide rates have increased dramatically in the last 20 years, with almost 30% more suicides each year. Suicide rates are particularly high among some demographics, including young men and, unfortunately, people who have served in the military.
The Prevalence of Suicide in the Military
Suicide is a serious concern across every branch of the military. While those rates dropped slightly in 2021 in some service branches, only the Air Force saw a statistically relevant drop in suicide rates from 2020 to 2021. Young, enlisted males remain at the highest risk for suicide across the armed forces.
Several factors may increase the risk of suicide among military service members and veterans, including:
- Chronic pain disorders, which some patients may develop as a result of their service
- Traumatic brain injury
- Trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Sleep disorders
Service members may also face a host of problems related to their service, including an increased risk of relationship problems, which can increase their risk of attempting or committing suicide.
Trauma’s Effect on the Military
Many service members experience significant trauma throughout their service. Around 10% of male veterans and 19% of female veterans end up with PTSD diagnoses. Even more, may suffer from significant symptoms, but remain undiagnosed due to pride, lack of desire to communicate symptoms, or even inability to secure a diagnosis.
Service members may experience trauma in many ways. Some experience trauma as a natural part of battle and war. Others may face substantial trauma due to events they had to miss while deployed or training, especially if something damaging or devastating happened to their families during those periods. Female service members have a high risk of facing sexual trauma.
That trauma can have a substantial impact. People who have experienced trauma have a higher risk of suffering a variety of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Trauma may also increase the risk of suicide, particularly among service members who do not receive the support they need to process the trauma they have faced.
The Challenges of Addressing Military Suicide Rates
Across the United States, many entities have struggled to address rising veteran suicide rates over the past several years. People who feel isolated, alone, or hopeless have, in general, a higher risk of committing suicide, but many organizations struggle with the tools and efforts necessary to reach them. In the military, those challenges may only rise.
Mental Health Stigma
The stigma against mental health conditions, despite being addressed heavily in recent years, has not disappeared–and that stigma may be even stronger in the military, where service members who admit that they are struggling may be perceived as “weak” or “unable to do their jobs.”
Many service members may also worry that a diagnosed mental health condition may result in them being separated from the military against their will, leaving them struggling to provide for their families. After discharge, continued mental health discrimination can make it difficult for many service members to find future positions, which may both further worsen mental health and decrease the likelihood that patients will pursue the treatment they need.
Mental Health Support Access
The military has numerous supports in place to provide access to mental health services for its members. Accessing them, however, may be more difficult than many people realize. Often, mental health supports are only available during specific working hours, which means it may prove very difficult for service members who work during those shifts to access them. Service members may also require permission from their commanding officers to access those supports during work hours, which can serve as a further barrier to access.
Veteran Support Access
While veterans’ services across the United States are supposed to provide support to former members of the Armed Forces, those supports are often unavailable. There can be long wait times to access many of those services.
Unfortunately, for service members in crisis, it can be difficult to wait for those services to become available. Former service members may also be less clear about how to access those suicide prevention programs. Many mental health conditions can make it very difficult for veterans to get out of their homes and connect with those vital services.
Many veterans end up very isolated. While some have strong support structures waiting for them at home, others may feel isolated from their families, even when they return home. Life often goes on without service members while deployed or away from home, and it can feel very isolating to return to former patterns or a place that they feel does not have any room for them.
Furthermore, many former service members feel that they have lost their support system when they leave the military. They may not be connected with people who can help them recognize worsening symptoms of PTSD or mental illness, making it more difficult for them to get the support they need.
Many service members believe that their mental health challenges are their loads to bear. They may not pursue assistance in dealing with those mental health issues, even when working with friends or loved ones could help lift some of that burden. The cost of treatment may seem prohibitive, especially for service members who need to seek provisions outside those provided by the military. That silent struggle may cause many service members to view suicide as their only way out.
Treatment for mental health challenges and trauma can go a long way toward reducing suicide rates among service members. Unfortunately, many service members still struggle to access or find out about those essential supports. However, finding the right support is key for mitigating suicide attempts and healing mental health.
Learn More About Military Suicide With Brain Therapy TMS
For service members struggling with feelings of isolation, depression, or hopelessness, there are options! At Brain Therapy TMS, patients with PTSD, anxiety, and other devastating conditions can receive the treatment they need to overcome those conditions and see higher overall levels of mental health. If you, or a service member you love, is struggling with those conditions or feelings, we can help.
Contact us today to learn more.
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