William Van OrnumFebruary 01, 2011

I hope you will read this, but suspect many will simply keep scanning. It is a sad topic, and probably will not evoke the spirited commentary of writings on women priests, celibacy, the rights of gays, or newly discovered evidence of priestly abuse or associated cover-up. For the past several years, news accounts have noted the large number of deaths in the United States Military--not to enemy action, not even to so-called friendly fire, but to suicide. Michael O'Loughlin, who as a 20-something himself keeps us posted on what is important to his generation—through their own eyes—wrote about this topic last week. But considering the blog tallies and number of comments I am not sure how many readers simply passed over his words to read about some of the other topics that always seem to pique our interest or stimulate or our (easily evoked) righteous anger. So please let me offer a few thoughts on why this might be so—and then I will note some efforts being made in the profession of psychology to help prevent soldiers from killing themselves. I suspect many of you may disagree with my conjectures.

Sometimes I wonder if many in the church have written off the young people—and those who, being 30 or 40, are older—who serve in the military. Of course, whenever someone speaks of her or his opposition to war, a frequently-too-perfunctory statement is added, "Of course, I support the soldiers." How many parishes offer outreach or keep in mind their men and women who are serving in the military? I recall visiting one little parish in a small town years ago—there were gold stars on the ceiling, the "boys" who died in World War I. Congregants at Fordham's Rose Hill Chapel cannot fail to note the names of the Fordham alums who died in World War II. These names give even greater sobriety to the nearby Stations of the Cross. Are young soldiers today held in similar honor?

Is there denial, is there bias, is there a glossing over and sweeping-under-the-rug going on among many of the faithful about the reality of what it means to be a soldier today? Without a draft, are disadvantaged young people signing up for the military, not out of love for their country or the sake of righteousness, but for job training, temporary financial security, or a way out of a tough family or impoverished culture? Does our own view of the morality of current warfare make us deny their human suffering? Of the soldier suicides, I wonder how many are minority persons, persons from poor backgrounds, or simply those who didn't want to go or couldn't get into college, let alone a Jesuit school. One portrait of a soldier suicide from the New York Times brings this into focus:

FORT HOOD, Tex. — At 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday in August, Specialist Armando G. Aguilar Jr. found himself at the end of his short life. He was standing, drunk and weepy, in the parking lot of a Valero station outside Waco, Tex. He had jumped out of his moving pickup. There was a police officer talking to him in frantic tones. Specialist Aguilar held a pistol pointed at his head.

Specialist Armando G. Aguilar Jr. joined the Army partly to pay for music school.

This moment had been a long time coming, his family said. He had twice tried to commit suicide with pills since returning from a tough tour in Iraq a year earlier, where his job was to drive an armored vehicle to search for bombs.

Army doctors had put him on medications for depression, insomnia, nightmares and panic attacks. Specialist Aguilar was seeing an Army therapist every week. But he had been getting worse in the days before his death, his parents said, seeing shadowy figures that were not there, hallucinating that he heard loud noises outside his trailer home.

Specialist Aguilar is but one of too many soldiers—overseas and back in the United States—who have committed suicide. This month's issue of The American Psychologist is devoted to efforts by psychologists to help build resiliency in soldiers:

The last 25 years have witnessed a shift in the fields of psychology and mental health from a focus on the treatment of pathology after it arises to the development of positive skills and resources that contribute to resilience before serious problems develop (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program in the U.S. Army represents one of the exciting applications of this approach to health and well-being. Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is understood as multidimensional, involving physical, emotional, social, familial, and spiritual domains. In this article, we examine the relevance of spiritual fitness to a comprehensive resilience program and then provide an overview of this new and innovative approach to human development in the Army. Before we turn to this discussion, however, it is important to consider the meanings of three key terms.

The meanings of the terms spirit and spirituality have evolved over the past few decades and are continuing to change (Zinnbauer, Pargament, & Scott, 1999). Though a consensus of meaning has yet to emerge, it is important to be clear about the ways in which the terms spirit and spirituality are being used in particular projects. Here, we are speaking about spirit, spirituality, and spiritual fitness in the human rather than theological sense. The spiritual fitness component of the CSF program is not based on a particular stance or position on the ontological truth or validity of philosophical, nonreligious, or religious frameworks of belief and practice. Department of Defense leaders are not in a privileged position to answer ontological questions about God's existence or the truth of religious claims. However, they can facilitate the search for truth, self-knowledge, purpose, and direction in life as group members define it. In this project, we define spirit as the essential core of the individual, the deepest part of the self, and one's evolving human essence. As Sweeney, Hannah, and Snider (2007) noted, “Human spirit is thoroughly manifested in who we are” (p. 26). But the human spirit is not synonymous with personal identity. It has a deeper dimension to it. Scholars often ascribe a number of sacred qualities to “spirit,” including ultimacy (what is true and of deepest significance), boundlessness (what is of lasting value), and transcendence (what is set apart from the ordinary) (Otto, 1917/1928; Tillich, 1952). The term spirit is also tied intimately to other higher order qualities, including purpose and meaning, enlightenment, authenticity, interconnectedness, and self-actualization. It is important to add that the human spirit is more than a set of fixed traits and characteristics; it is an animating impulse—a vital, motivating force that is directed to realizing higher order goals, dreams, and aspirations that grow out of the essential self (Sweeney et al., 2007). In this sense, the human spirit organizes people's lives and propels people forward. One military leader put it this way: “Our individual sense of who we are—our true, spiritual self—defines us. It creates our mindset, defines our values, determines our actions, and predicts our behavior” (Fairholm, cited in Snider, 2008, p. 14).

My own sense is that the people of the Church could be doing more to help individual soldiers who are or who have just recently served our country. Am I off base, out in left field, or to mix metaphors, on a different planet? I hope to hear your perceptions on this, especially if you can let us know about positive and constructive outreach efforts to help fellow Christians whose military service may have brought them to a psychological place known in the Beatitudes as being "poor in spirit."

William Van Ornum


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Tom Maher
10 years 8 months ago
The moralizing that war is evil and therefore people kill themselves is a nonsense assertion about war and a non-sequitur on war's consequences.  A non-sequitur because it does not follow, even if you believe that war is inherently evil,  that somehow some people in the military will kill themselves as aconsequence.

This argument is also obnoxious in its implication that because war is evil all people serving in the military are somehow spiritually or morally lacking.   Anyone who knows anyone who has actually served in combat are some of the most moral people you will likely find.  Christ of course several times praised individual Romas centurians for their firm spriitual understanding.

The idea that military people are experiencing crisis of conscience for being in the military or their participating in warfare is not likely for most people.  You need to try to remember that the current wars are not the first case of warefare in history.  Warefare has been going on all over the earth for all times. But in all those expereince no documentation exist documenting some personal spriitual malise that would result in someone killing themselves.

This "spiritual analysis"  just does explain the suicide of individuals in the military.  
Marie Rehbein
10 years 8 months ago
I tend to agree that there is not a direct cause and effect relationship between killing in war and subsequent suicide, given that the exceptions to that are so great in number.  It would seem reasonable that some of those who sign up for military service are looking for something and failing to find it.  This is not confined to military service, but perhaps military service seems more promising in that regard compared to committing oneself to some other undertaking.  Furthermore, I think drug use may play a role in the mental states of those who commit suicide.  It is often taken as a symptom that someone will use drugs, including alcohol, in order to cope with emotional issues, but isn't it also the case that drugs, including alcohol, can have a depressive effect that makes dealing with emotional issues even more difficult?
10 years 8 months ago
I think it is obvious that these things contribute to the mental states and problems because they attempt to redefine human nature and reality.  The army does not want men that truely listen to their religious impuses as this would lead to a rejection of current policies and norms.

"An army of one" - "army strong" - these slogans focus on the heroic individualism and empowerment that attempt to reshape our nature into a type of "military superhumanism."

It is a complicated topic - one that our current culture is as at fault in as much as the military - but this deformation of human identity does lead to depression and suicide in many cases, I believe.
Tom Maher
10 years 8 months ago
Let's be clear what is at issue here: the idea that being in the military and therefore associated with or participating in a war, where war some say is inherently evil, somehow causes spiritual or moral deficits in members of the military such that they take their own life.  By spriitual or moral we are not talking about emotional or mental state of members of the military.  It goes without saying that military service in any age or country has always been emotionally and mentally stressful.  Military service members are regularly  separated for long period of time from family and friends.  In foriegn conflicts service members experience the loss and violent injury of friends and fellow service members and of course constant hazard to their own life.   The issue here is does personal spriitual or moral deficit arsing from being a part of in the military participating in a war cause some military servic members to take their own live? 

My answer above is that war is not unique to our age or country.  No previous war identify a spriitual or moral deficit on the part of the people participating in the war that was not exist before the war was started.  War does not cause military service members become evil or experience moral or spriitual deficits.  

The idea that war corrupts the military personnel and lead to their taking their own life is false.
10 years 8 months ago
Norman, I agree with you; however, the new convenant of Jesus Christ perfects the old and it is a complete rejection of the duel, of the sacrifice and therefore, on a grander scale, of war.

Christ represents universal love, rather than the love of tribe, so to speak, and it is his break in the cycle of violence that has disrrupted the power of cathartic acts of war and violence that allowed old structures (totalities of states) and power to survive.  The mechanics of such power are exposed by Christ, so they no longer work.

Today, the only choice is either complete love or complete war - and since we have rejected the message of Christ - we will face escalating levels of violence (on a personal/psychological and global level) of complete war.  (not the wars of old - but new decentralized limitless violence of terror and crime networks etc. - open source networks enable this proliferation)

Rene Girard (I keep plugging him on here ;) goes over this in his book on Clausewitz called "Battling to the End"

Kang Dole
10 years 8 months ago
"Curiously, God spoke so much in the Torah, and in other books, yet he falls silent after the humiliation, and dehumanizing of Job.   We never hear from him again in the Hebrew bible."

Perhaps this is the case in the "Old Testament," but in the actual Hebrew Bible... not so much! ;)
Devon Zenu
10 years 8 months ago
Norman Costa wrote: "I agree, that is what the bible says.  But that is not all that it says.  God himself orders violence, murder, even genocide.  He plays favorites, and can be as capricious and fickle as one of the Roman or Greek gods."
We must always remember that just because something is attributed to God in the Bible does mean that it is a fully accurate statement about God. As Pope Benedict reminded us just recently in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation VERBUM DOMINI, God did inspire the authors of scripture, but he allowed them to express the truth He had reveleaved to them in their own words, using the language and concepts they had available to them. (See #44)
Also relevant is what the pope says about the “the dark passages of the bible”:
 42. In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasion­ally contain, prove obscure and dif?cult. Here it must be remembered ?rst and foremost that bib­lical revelation is deeply rooted in history. God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resist­ance. God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them. Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things. This can be explained by the histori­cal context, yet it can cause the modern reader to be taken aback, especially if he or she fails to take account of the many “ dark ” deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day. In the Old Testament, the preaching of the proph­ets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his peo­ple in preparation for the Gospel. So it would be a mistake to neglect those passages of Scripture that strike us as problematic. Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneuti­cal key “ the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mys­tery ”.140 I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ.
10 years 8 months ago
My comments here is a personal one about the military and may provide a little insight into the higher suicide rate in the military.
I tell everyone, the second best decision I ever made was to join the Navy.  The first, being marrying my wife and having a family.  For myself and a lot of young men the military is a real growing up experience.  You are part of a very active group of similar young men and expected to perform and you are exposed to some of the best men in our society.  There are also some real jerks in the military but the excellent role models out number these by a large amount.  By far the most impressive men I have ever met were in my relatively short time in the military and not in business, academia or other areas that I have been exposed to for much longer times.  There is definitely stress as I said you are expected to perform and there are plenty of positive role models.  
The Army is certainly different from the Navy but all the stories I have heard are similar in the growing up experience and stress to perform.  Obviously carrying a gun and expecting to kill people is a lot more stressful than normal civilian life and my everyday life in the Navy.  
Another occupation that is similar in stress also has a high rate of suicides, policemen.  One thing in common between the two is that each carries a gun and has constant access to one.  I heard a comment some time ago from a young person who was glad that his family did not have a gun in it.  He didn't think he would be alive if it had.
Dr. van Ornum, I believe their is a concept in social psychology (from my graduate courses in it) that links a stimulus with an action in the sense that the stimulus triggers thoughts on using the stimulus that wouldn't be there if the stimulus was not present.  In other words, the availability of a weapon or means of suicide may trigger thoughts in many of us that would not be there otherwise.  So are there are possibly lots of people not in the military out there who would also take their life but do not have the constant stimulus or availability of the means.
400 suicides out of 1.1 million people represents about .04 percent of the military and certainly each is regrettable.  The military should try to weed out those who might be susceptible to suicide.  I certainly took a lot of psychological tests before I entered and during basic training.  It would be interesting to see what percentage of the military thought it was a worthwhile experience and what percentage thought it was negative.  For me it was extremely positive and one I always treasure.  But I can see that for some it can be negative and for others just a waste of time.
ed gleason
10 years 8 months ago
Following up on Cosgrove's differences in Navy /Army experiences with gun access it should be asked is their a difference in Navy/ Army/ Marine suicide rates. Navy men/women have much less access and training in small arms and  have considerably less gun stimulus in their lives. I bet their suicide rate is less..   
Jim McCrea
10 years 8 months ago
"I also wonder about the morality of recruiting volunteers among people who almost by definition haven't thought about life very deeply."

These are the kinds of (mostly) young men that the Marines seek out.  They are easily malleable, prone to overactive testosterone, and just the kind that will take orders no matter how futile or even stupid they may be.

Many Marines have been heroic above and beyond the call of duty and Marine history is full of their tales.  Many Marines have also been turned into ant-social, blood thirsty men who cannot function adequately in a non-military society where choices have to be made.

10 years 8 months ago
Excellent articles by both Michael and Bill.  I think you are right that there is bias and denial within the church and civil society.  The sufferings and potential for suffering among service members and their families is generally not recognized and consequently there isn't outreach to them.  Living in San Diego County, which is traditionally known as a "Navy town"  and now has large installations of Navy and Marine personnel, one cannot help but know someone in the military.....relative, friend, neighbor, etc.  In the 80's I worked at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and watched some of the trainings of the recruits.  My unscientific impression was that many of them were of minority ethnicity.    They all seemed so young and immature.  I couldn't then (and now) imagine them going into battle. 

With its large military presence, San Diego may be unique in the care and attention the citizens give to service members and their families.  They are often honored at sports and entertainment events.  I don't know if the diocese has any specific programs, but I believe that individual parishes, especially those in the communities having military installations, do reach out.  A large number of their parishioners would be service members and families. 

The local paper has a front page article today:  Pentagon Battling Problem of Suicide in its Ranks" .  .....The MC suicide rate had soared above all branches in 2009 and then plummetead 29 % last year. Exactly why is still unknown but Lt. Cmdr Andrew Martin, a clinical psychologistdd who is manager of the MC Suicide Prevention Program thinks it is because Marine attitudes are changing about seeking help for behavioral healthissues.  Also, it is a sign of the maturation of prevention programs.  Navy and Marine personnel in SD created one of the military's most innovative suicide  prevention and psychological resiliency initiatives.  The program embeds mental health providers within combat units and trains other front -line troops such as sergeants and chaplains to be mental health first responders.  Charles Benson, MC psychiatrist said that the Operational Stress Control and Readiness Program in Afghanistan has broken down barriers to delivering mental health care and reduced the need for medication and evacuations.  (San Diego Union Tribune, 2-4-11, article by Gretel C. Kovach).
we vnornm
10 years 8 months ago
I would like to thank artist Christopher T. Brown for allowing us to display a photo of one of his paintings-it reminds me of Station V of the Stations of the Cross, where Simon of Cyrene carries the cross for Jesus. bvo
Michael Baxter
10 years 8 months ago
Mr. Van Ornum's comments could not be more appropriate.  Too often, Americans speak of how "we" should be going to war or not going to war, without considering seriously the actual soldiers who will be doing the fighting.  They bear a heavy burden overseas and another heavy burden when they return home and try to plug back into a life that has become strangely removed from their experiences as soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines.  What is the Church doing to minister to them?  This is a question for all Catholics, especially those who speak and work for peace.  Ministering to returning soldiers is, I venture to say, one of the most improtant forms of witnessing for peace in this society.  How can we help returning veterans in knowing the healing rays of God's grace?  This is one of the most important, and as Mr. Van Ornum notes, most neglected pastoral issues of our day. 
10 years 8 months ago
Great topic and great link to the APA magazine.  A question that comes to my mind automatically is the relation between war and suicide - a topic that has been in contention since the days of Homer.  The killing that is done - that act of transgression against God and man does terrible things to the minds and souls of all soldiers, no matter how tough they are.

That said, a very high percentage of the suicides are committed by those with little or no combat experience (I believe it is 61%). This indicates that this is not just an issue associated with the army - but that the army is a representation of the general population.

Atomization of society and the focus on human will power (i.e. Obama's call to "win the future" - or "An Army of One") are a cause of spiritual disorder and despair that affects both the military and the high rates of suicide at large.
Crystal Watson
10 years 8 months ago
Your mention of the suicides reminds me of that movie "In the Valey of Elah" ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Valley_of_Elah  ... it was based on a factual  story by journalist Mark Boal, "Death and Dishonor", about  the toll of PTSD on soldiers in Iraq.

I'm really a peacenik and I think Christianity and war are incompatible but I do know a Jesuit who served as a marine in Vietnam.  Later he volunteered to be an army chaplain in Iraq - Fr. John Quinn SJ.  Interestingly, it was he whp told me about peace activist John Dear SJ and Pax Christi.
10 years 8 months ago
From the army description of spirit quote above:  "Here, we are speaking about spirit, spirituality, and spiritual fitness in the human rather than theological sense."

This, I think, is the key: the army wants "spirit" in the utilitarian sense that it creates and maintains stable soldiers. 

It does not want spirit in the sense that there is something beyond human power that may limit human action (i.e. killing of fellow humans).  Despair and suicide comes from their transgression and isolation - a transgression that the army denies to exist and, if they do acknowledge it, hope only that it can be coped with in a theraputic manner rather than addressing the religious and human issues at the root.

10 years 8 months ago
Tom, my point was not that "war is evil" - defensive wars can be just - but that killing (as a principle) is evil, that unrestricted violence is evil.  Any reading of the Bible understands that the men are prone to fits of irrational violence and that the will of God is to limit or forbid such action.  Hence the origin story of Cain and Able and the founding of the first city to check cycles of violence that were unleashed from the first act of murder murder.

Christ may have praised centurians, but it was not for their warlike nature - it was for their faith in Him.

The fact that the army and government resacrilizes violence - makes it a point of transcendence or heroism - is an attempt to restore the old scarificial order of princes and powers that Christ destroyed on the Cross. 

The kids are not to be blamed, the system of endless war and denial of Christian revelation is.

Katrina Ferrer
10 years 8 months ago
I most definitely agree with your article. Despite what the Army currently does, there is nothing the Army can do to enforce spirituality. Take an institution such as The United States Military Academy at West Point: even in the early days of cadet-life, cadets were granted the opportunity to escape from the hard days of basic training during the summer months to attend religious services. The atmosphere of having a religious life was encouraged, but not necessarily enforced. Although an academic institution, West Point is still an instillation of the US Army and it is just as susceptible to suicides as any other military post. In the academic year of 2008-2009, there were 6 attempted suicides and 2 successful suicides of cadets, all of college age. Not a fact that the West Point admissions office is so willing to release. Is religious participation and spirituality the answer? Or does the solution to the Army's high suicide rates lie else where?
10 years 8 months ago
Does violence corrupt?  Does killing?  Does it dehumanize? 

Most certainly the bible answers yes to all three counts.

Tom Maher
10 years 8 months ago
So poeple in the military are killing themselves because of their association with the military and its military war mission?  This makes no sense., This argument lacks  connecting details explaining how being in the military causes impaired morality which causes someone to take their own life.

This argument that war corrupts the individual serving in the military eliminates the individual as a functioning moral agent with free will.  It make war out to be an all powerful evil that an individual can not resist and therefore must be corrupted.  But people do have moral sense and moral choice.  The actual empirical observation is military people are perfectly moral people like any other group.

Way to much moralizing that does not make sense.  Suicide in the military are not credibly shown here  to be due to any spiritual or moral cause.
Devon Zenu
10 years 8 months ago
Tom Maher wrote: "My answer above is that war is not unique to our age or country."

Yes, but there are some unique stresses in modern warfare. It is only in recent years that the military has perfected its ability to use operant and classical conditioning to help soldiers override their natural aversion to killing. (In his book "On Killing", Lt. Col. Dave Grossman chronicles how the military turned a 15% firing rate among soldiers in WWII into a nearly 99% firing rate today.) Add to this improvements in communication and travel that allow soldiers to stay much more in touch with their home lives while deployed. This adds a level of stress and makes it harder to compartmentalize their combat life from their home life. Our battlefield technology (e.g. better telescopic sights, night vision goggles, HD cameras, etc) allows soldiers to more intimately witness the damage and death they inflict. Also, a smaller percentage of our population is serving in the military and a small proportion of the population feels any direct impact of the war on their lives, so soldiers feel more alone and misunderstood when they return home.

we vnornm
10 years 8 months ago
Thank you, Casey. I am sorry to hear about your friend.

I think it is important to keep in mind your many peers 18-22 who do not go to college and whose life path is often different than those who attend in work in colleges.

best, bvo
Kayna Pfeiffer
10 years 8 months ago
This is a great topic to discuss. I have friends that have served in the military and overseas or that are contemplating serving. I respect them for serving our country but at the same time I have mixed feelings about their well-being seeing the traumatic events military service men and women have had to endure. You make a good point when you ask what their motivation is for joining the service. I think these days many of our youth are going into to the military for reasons other than to just to serve our country. What I mean is yes they are proud to serve our country but at the same time they cannot afford college, obtain a job, or are at a crossroads in their lives with no direction so they see the military as a reaching their goals. However, at that moment when they make their decision they are probably not thinking about the long term effect it may have on their lives. They see the short term benefits and maybe the lucrative signing bonus.

When they return from their tour of duty many will be physically or psychologically scarred. Many will suffer from PTSD and depression like the young man discussed in your article. I think that the church and other community organizations should hold support group meetings for those that have served our country. That way these people feel like they are not going through their problems alone and can start to cope with readjusting to civilian life. Putting someone on medicine and having them see an Army therapist once a week may not be enough when someone returns. Having a support group of peers who have been through the same thing as you would be most beneficial in reducing the military suicide rate.  
10 years 8 months ago
I learned, today, about a promising program for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have a service connected mental health problem and are first time offenders convicted of misdeamenors and felonies that allow probation such as drunken driving and weapons possession.  Offenders of violenand t felonies are not eligible.  These "Veterans' Courts are on the rise nationally and in CA.  Buffalo, NY had the 1st veterans' court established in 2008.  So far, 53 veterans have graduated which means they were clean of alcohol and drugs for one year.  San Diego's program is a pilot project and the 7th in the state.  After conviction a sentencing judge has the option of redirecting an eligible vet to the Veterans' Court.  If a vet drops out of the treatment program his/her probation may be revoked.
Evander Lomke
10 years 8 months ago
Suicide is a compustible issue. It involves unimaginable sorrow and guilt among those most directly affected. It is also an issue for society to understand, to remove the stigma of near-suicides and to prevent "successful ones" among individuals displaying classic, but often subtle, warning signs....The epidemic of suicide among our military, and it is of epidemic prorportions and character, is tragic and troubling. Suicide Prevention International (SPI), an organization headed by Dr. Herbert Hendin of New York City, which conducts outreach to countries and places like China, has a special concern for the U.S. military. For bringing this often-neglected tragedy to the attention of our population, the work of Dr. Hendin as well as the writings of Drs. Van Ornum and P. Quinnett, among others of equally good will, are (not to make a poor pun) to be saluted. The American Mental Health Foundation thanks you all.
Casey McGowan
10 years 8 months ago
Recently there has been more and more attention placed on helping our military personnel and working towards preventing suicide among that population. It is certainly a noble and important goal and I strongly believe that anything we can do to help these men and women is worthwhile. This past summer a friend of mine-who was a private in the United States Army- committed suicide. As devastating as that was for me, it was only made worse when I realized how high the suicide rate is for veterans and active service members. There is clearly a problem and given what we ask these people to deal with and encounter, we owe it to them to work towards more effective treatments and preventions.
I don't know if the answer lies in the field of psychology, in more spiritual outlets or a combination of both, but I hope that professionals in both of these areas feel an obligation to do what they can to support our troops. Priests, rabbis, and leaders of all faiths will hopefully make it a point to be available for these individuals in their congregations and make it known to those men and women that they are there to listen. Psychologists can continue research to find more effective programs than we currently have in place and hopefully with time we can make significant progress with this issue.  

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