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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Suicides in Iraq: One Parent's Question

Putting politics and views on the war aside, it is my holiday wish that the media continue to draw attention to the disturbing number of suicides among our troops in Iraq. I have been writing about this for over four years, one of the few in the “mainstream” to do so. Paul Rieckhoff of IAVA has long been pushing for this also, to no avail. I penned a well-publicized column a few weeks ago asking when the media would finally focus on this issue -- and I'm grateful that there has been a flood of stories from high-level media outlets about this ever since, starting with a two-part CBS News report last month.

Just this week, we have seen (and I have cited at this blog, see below) a remarkable report in the Army Times about a mutiny among our troops that followed a sergeant’s suicide and other tragic deaths, and an in-depth AP report about a family’s quest to uncover information about the military’s mistreatment of their son, who also killed himself over there. The official total of suicides in the Iraq stands at 132, but this does not include the many cases still under investigation, others that are likely but not proven, and hundreds of others that have happened on a return home. Just this week comes word of a few more “noncombat” fatalities in Iraq, which often turn out to be self-inflicted.

I’d like to close by publishing here a comment on my Army Times posting below. It comes from the parent of a suicide victim in Iraq. The mother or father is unfortunately “anonymous,” but if you can provide any information or help (while I do my own search), please post something here. The message:

“We are dealing with non-hostile combat death in the family. The army ruled it as self-inflicted despite the fact we were in constant contact with him. Testimonies of his final hours showed no sign of suicidal tendencies, physical evidence provided was contradicting and circumstantial at best. He was getting out Iraq and the service in less than 4 months.

“I am curious about this medication comment that increases 'the likelihood of suicide ideation/gesture.’ What types of medication could be suspect that would be used for relieving stress and anxiety? Nothing else makes sense and the Army has only released the sparse information that supports their determinations.

“Greg, something stinks with this noncombat crap going on, and families like us are isolated & left to fend for ourselves. The government/Army holds all the cards and resources and know the process in which we have to navigate through to get information and the many ways to be denied. It's a job to them. For us, it's picking up the shattered remains of our lives.”

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil are now carrying warnings about increased suicide ideation especially in adolescents. This might be a place for these parents to start. My heart goes out to them. The military appears to be doing everything they can to get out of doing anything for anybody. This is not supporting our troops.

Anonymous said...

Thank-you for your work on educating the public about the horrific care the troops are getting. My condolences to the family.

I am a newly diagnosed bipolar II. I found that my suicidal thoughts were increasing when I was inititally wrongly diagnosed as having major depression and was prescribed an anti-depressant instead of a mood stabilizer. This apparently is a common reaction.

Are troops getting diagnosed properly in the field?

Is getting the wrong meds contributing to the suicide rate? If they are getting meds do the other troops know what behavior changes to look for? I started having wild mood swings-wired, then went into a deep, deep, dark pit of despair that I don't ever want to revisit. My meds were changed within a few weeks.

Are the other recreational drugs/and prescribed speed troops may be taking to mask mental health issues contributing to suicidal feelings?

IMPEACH, INDICT, IMPRISON
end this illegal, immoral war and bring our boys home NOW!

George Myers said...

I was treated for Lyme disease and have at other times a mysterious condition. I worry about the Iraq "superbug" parasite I read in a SW news article. I heard the person affected cannot donate blood for quite awhile (a year or so?). It sounds to me that this could contribute to a mental problems like tick borne diseases in the US. President "Mush" has been treated recently. In my archaeology work I heard of one case, a National Geographic photographer who died from the tick out on the East End of Long Island where its a problem.

Paul Sullivan said...

Thank you Greg, for reporting on the suicide epidemic among our Iraq and Afghanistan war service members and veterans. Veterans for Common Sense leads the fight on this issue, as we post the true casualty statistics from the two wars: 71,000 battlefield casualties reported by the Pentagon, and 264,000 new veteran patients reported treated at VA hospitals. Best, Paul Sullivan, Executive Director, Veterans for Common Sense, www.VeteransForCommonSense.org

Ginny in CO said...

Many thanks Greg,for your long term efforts on behalf of the vets who need far better psych care. As an RN for 30 years, I first encountered PTSD in a WWI vet and went on to see many WWII and Vietnam vets whose lives were destroyed by it. It was the first horror I had when it became clear Bush would attack Iraq. How many more?