More than a Band-Aid needed for Service Member and Veteran Suicide

A February 24,2023 AP article by Lolita Baldor reflects the findings of the Suicide Prevention and Response Committee.

This independent committee shared concerns for the growing rate of military suicide, despite more funds being spent for prevention and a growing rate of suicide during the past 15 years.

In 2019, I was asked to be part of a statewide meeting on military suicide prevention. I went to one meeting. It was clear it was a façade of a predetermined effort to mark off the check list as “done”, and that little credence would be paid to anything other than “training for key personnel” to mark off another check list.

I was angry. Once again it appeared to be an expensive, politically motivated Band-Aid approach to a far deeper problem. I had witnessed this too many times in the past 2 decades and it was deadly and sent a less-than-accurate message that “it was being addressed” when it seemed, once again, like treating a bleeding ulcer with TUMS. Those quick-fix formulas did not address the root cause and the result was suicides that were not abating.

I didn’t go back to any more meetings. And I wasn’t invited. I guess they could tell by my interaction at the meeting that I wasn’t buying their canned approach.

Baldor’s article outlined 4 major points as I interpreted it (I encourage finding the report and original article online for further reading):

  1. Raise the minimum age for service members to buy firearms to 25. This seemed bordering on illogical as a preventative measure, and I couldn’t wrap my thoughts around it no matter which way I looked at it. In other words, it made no sense and was the highlighted action item?!
  2. Address the abuse of alcohol and drugs in the military. This seemed completely reasonable especially since the military has used both as a rite of passage and to decompress from adrenal rushes created by the nature of the job. In other words, the use of alcohol and drugs are indirectly encouraged. There are other ways to decompress and calm the system that aren’t potentially deadly.
  3. Fix delays in financial compensation and reimbursements. This seemed reasonable based on my nearly 2 decades of navigating completely archaic methods of payment (and their ability to arbitrarily garnish monies if they made a mistake). No private company could stay in business operating in the manner of accounting done through the DoD and VA.
  4. Address the rigid and resistant and complex structure of the military (DoD) and VA. 100% accurate based on my experience. It is an antiquated system bogged down with so many rules and regs that no one can keep up and if they can, there’s no sense because there is no accountability in the end.

So the independent committee report (perhaps another box checked off the checklist) did have 3 of 4 reasonable options to get to the root of the problem in my humble opinion. In other words, they seemed to address what could be causing “the ulcer” which could lead to new ways to approach it.

Now we will see if their report will yield some meaningful action items.

It could be deadly to do otherwise.

Question: How would you address the action items identified by the independent committee?

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