Every war takes an extraordinary toll on the soldiers who are sent to foreign battlefields to fight on behalf of the United States and other nations. But many of the troops called to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan also have had to deal with an unprecedented number of multiple deployments, which oftentimes can place an extreme emotional burden on both the soldiers and their families.
The unfortunate result has been a rise in the suicide rate among veterans. According to the Blue Stars Families research and policy department, the suicide rate rose from 10.3 percent in 2001 to 15.8 percent in 2008, which represents a 50 percent increase. Army veterans account for much of the increase. In addition, in 2008, approximately one in ten active-component service members reported that they’d contemplated suicide since joining the military.
Blue Star Families, which is a nonprofit organization that works with the Department of Defense at the federal, state and local level to assist military families, has joined forces with The Creative Coalition, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and Health Net, Inc. to raise awareness about the growing suicide rate and educate military families, veterans and service members about how to recognize and prevent suicide. The groups have launched a public service announcement campaign on Wednesday that features celebrities counseling veterans and their families that they are not alone. Actors Alfre Woodard, Omar Epps and CCH Pounder and athletes Rick Fox and Terrell Owens are some of the celebrities featured in the PSAs.
Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), who co-chairs the Congressional Military Families Caucus, said that the campaign is an effort to get the entire nation engaged in “wrapping its arms around our military families and our service members who might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, mental illness or some other result of combat” that could lead to suicide. He said that a service member in theatre for as short a period as two weeks experiences a measure of emotional trauma. How much depends on the individual and the degree of severity.
“We recognize that and are determined to do what we should do, and that’s take care of the folks who care about us,” Sanford said.
(Photos: Xinhua /Landov)