According to the 2020 National Veterans Suicide Prevention Annual report, suicide rates continue to increase in the U.S. adult population. There is also a growing correlation between post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide risk.
In this episode of the Passion Struck Podcast, John R. Miles interviews Charles P. Smith on the growing suicide rate among veterans, active-duty military members, and the general population. Charles served 10 years as a Marine Corps officer. Through his TedX, viewed by over 2 million, and this podcast, he is trying to bring a voice to the voiceless.
We discuss how mental illness is the same if not more important as physical health, yet it is viewed completely differently. If someone's mental health isn't there, we need to talk about it. This is a subject that we need to focus on in this growing dilemma that seems to be ignored by the highest levels of the military.
Charles provides shocking information that since September 11th, there have been over 115,000 veterans who have taken their lives through suicide. This number was fact check by the TedX team. The reality is that if you include active duty members, it is over 138,000 - a 20:1 ratio of suicides in the military community compared to those who lost their lives in combat.
We also discuss these statistics on why we need to focus more on suicide rates at the highest levels of the military and government. And the growing link between post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide rates.
Statistics on suicide rates
It is a staggering statistic that 46,510 American adults died by suicide in 2018, compared with 31,610 in 2005. The average rose from 86.6 per day in 2005 to 124.4 in 2017 and 127.4 in 2018. That is a 47.1% increase, and the rate of suicides in veterans is 1.5x that of the general population.
Across the nation, the number of suicide deaths has been rising since the turn of the millennium. Overall, from 2005 to 2018, the age- and sex-adjusted suicide rates among Veterans were higher and rose faster than those among non-Veteran U.S. adults.
Post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide rates
The National Center for PTSD 2017 report found an association between post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. And, the association between PTSD and suicide is particularly relevant to military members and Veterans. Among US Army service members from 2001–2009, those who died by suicide were almost 13x more likely to have received a diagnosis of PTSD than all Army service members in the same time period.
One study examined all suicide deaths from 1994–2006 using the Danish national healthcare and social registries and found that persons with PTSD had 5.3x the death rate from suicide than persons without PTSD.
A subsequent study examined death from suicide among all persons diagnosed with PTSD in Denmark from 1995–2011 and found that after adjustment for demographics and pre-existing comorbid psychiatric diagnoses, persons with PTSD had 13x the rate of suicide than persons without PTSD.
Quotes From Charles P. Smith
"These people who take that step to take their life, they are in pain we can't understand."
"When they take their life, they think that they are becoming less of a burden on others when the reality is it actually hurts the people that they love."
"This is a way to give a voice to the now voiceless."
"And when you look at the statistics, in particular, in the veteran community, the suicide rate is one and a half times that in the general population."
ENGAGE CHARLES P. SMITH
Charles is a servant leader and passionate veteran’s advocate. He recently had the honor of becoming a TED Talk speaker on the topic of veteran suicide. He felt compelled to raise awareness of this serious and important issue following the death by suicide of his own executive officer in May 2019.
ENGAGE WITH JOHN R. MILES
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