High Suicide Rates Among Vets Alarms Politicians and Researchers

Survivors of abuse

Our veterans are not getting the treatment they need. Reported suicides among veterans amount to 22 per day, and CNN suggests the actual figures may be even larger. The alarmingly high suicide rate raises important questions. How are we failing our vets? What are we doing wrong? Politicians and researchers are grappling for answers to these questions, and doing what they can do address problems as fast as possible.

Mental Health Programs Give Up On Vets Too Early, Politicians Say

New research shows that it can take anywhere from 7 to twelve years for post traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma symptoms to fully manifest. Current VA programs only extend mental healthcare services to veterans for five years. “In Vietnam, a lot of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder didn’t show up anywhere until between seven and 12 years later,” political director at the veterans’ advocacy group, Kate O’Gorman, told The New York Times. “We really want to make sure that care is available when someone is ready to seek it.” Politicians, veterans’ support groups, and veterans lawyers are fighting to extend post traumatic stress disorder help — and other mental health treatment — to a minimum of 15 years.

Researchers Take: People Heal In Different Ways

Researchers add that people heal in different ways. In other words, what works for one veteran to relieve military trauma or military sexual trauma may not work for another. To that end, researchers are exploring unique, new ways to curb symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Scientists are experimenting with video games as distraction therapy — and even virtual reality as a form of immersion therapy. Live Science explains the rationale behind using video games as treatment: “Focusing on a highly engaging visual-spatial task, such as playing video games, may significantly reduce the occurrence of flashbacks, the mental images concerning the trauma that intrude on the sufferer afterward.”

Veteran suicide is a problem — and one that the American government needs to address quickly. Politicians continue pushing for longer periods of treatment from VA hospitals to improve mental health while researchers explore additions and/or alternatives to traditional talk therapy.

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