Jumping Without a Chute: Honoring Our Veterans, 2011Today is Veterans Day in the U.S., a day to give thanks and honor all who serve our country in the military. While the military has made some strides in recent years in acknowledging the mental health problems of both veterans and active military personnel, it remains an area where prejudice and misconceptions run rampant.

A soldier wouldn’t jump out of a plane without checking their parachute to make sure it was secured and in working order. Yet they are jumping out of active duty into a system that isn’t prepared for their needs, and remains underfunded and under-resourced.

For instance, last week we discussed these continuing challenges with mental health services and the rate of suicide in the military today, among vets and active duty soldiers.

Each year in the U.S. approximately 35,000 – 37,000 people die by suicide. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., ahead of things like hypertension, homicide and Parkinson’s disease (all things that get a lot more news and research attention than suicide).

About 100 people kill themselves each day. Nearly 20 percent of those who take their lives is a veteran — or about 18 vets a day. Let that sink in for a moment, because it’s a big number.

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Jumping Without a Chute: Honoring Our Veterans, 2011

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  1. There are two more ways we can help which are easy for anyone to figure out. The first is to realize NOBODY who is depressed or suffers from PTSD wants to volunteer to be locked up in a VA Psych Ward. For those of you who haven’t been to one, GO! Then tell me if YOU would agree to go there… under ANY circumstances. It’s not the lockdown which is scary, it’s the treatment, and it’s not conducive to healing from DEPRESSION! From Schizophrenia? Yes. From Depression? No. You can’t treat the depressed by putting them in a place they’ll NEVER agree to go into again. You don’t treat them by making their lives WORSE! You treat them by making their lives better, and an admission into the VA Psych ward will NOT make your life BETTER! Once you’re in, you’ll lie, cheat, or steal, or learn to lie, cheat, and steal so you can get out of what can only described as a “fresh hell.” Additionally, Vets who are depressed to the point of admission, if they HAVE a job, will lose it, and the vast majority of them can’t hold a job, and live in rundown squalor because even our 100% disabled vets receive roughly $2500 a month–FAR less income than the average American (a more fair number would be $4500, which would allow them to qualify to purchase an AVERAGE American home. Haven’t they earned the right to live in, at the absolute least, an Average American home? At least those who are 100% disabled, let alone those who are RETIRED and 100% disabled, no? (for those not aware, 100% disability in the VA means the doctors have agreed your unemployable–NOT an easy rating to receive). When you’re trying to take care of a family and your choice is to get paid ~$30,000 a year OR get your family $200,000 in life insurance AND your continuing pension, the thought of killing yourself, becomes quite prevalent. That’s right… ~$30,000 a year for someone who cannot work and has put 15 or 20 years in. Vets are not permitted to draw both their retirement and a disability pension. They must choose one or the other. With that money, vets could afford to hire someone to help take care of them because believe it or not, the VA doesn’t provide that, even to those who can’t work, and I’ve contacted every veterans help group I know of and there’s no help coming forth. Remember, MOST of our vets are NOT married and many of them don’t have family. The military WAS our family and I can’t begin to describe the feeling of losing that family. Friends? Sure, but they’re IN the military and moved all around the country.

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