The mass slaughter of North American bison by settlers of European descent is a well-known ecological disaster. An estimated eight million bison (from a high of 30-60 million) roamed the United States in 1870, but just 20 years later fewer than 500 of the iconic animals remained.
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How Big is the Veteran Suicide Problem?

Overview of the policies and flawed science behind the Veteran suicide, drug overdose deaths, diabetic amputations, and mental health epidemics.

This series intends to tackle a range of subjects that afflict Veterans, especially suicide and drug overdoses which, along with diabetic lower limb amputations, are at epidemic levels. Across military medicine and traditional approaches to “mental health,” there is a wide gap between the VA’s palliative care model – control the symptoms – and root cause analysis that gets at the physical damage to the brain and whole-body wellness and the brain wound healing called for. This includes proper diagnoses and a shift to an appreciation of polytrauma — including the need for brain-wound healing — and its long-term negative consequences.

We at TreatNOW, Grunt Style, America’s Mighty Warriors, and numerous other Veteran organizations are focused on Suicide Prevention. DoD and the VA declare that Suicide Prevention is their #1 priority. On this we can agree. Where we disagree is the protocols used by the VA and traditional medicine to diagnose what they call “mental health” issues, and their insufficient interventions. We differentiate between real mental health issues and brain wounds. The disagreement is fundamental, so much so that that we continue to call for an Inspector General report on the flawed science sponsored by taxpayers without their knowledge.

First, some perspective. We must separate scientific fact from the fiction spun by conclusions in Army/DoD/VA studies. The USG spent in excess of $186 Million on five clinical trials and came to flawed conclusions about the safety and efficacy of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy when used to treat TBI/PTSD. The Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) has finally set the record straight now that peer-reviewed science has again confirmed that hyperbaric oxygenation and medicine begin with any increase in pressure or oxygen concentration. Thus, the Army/DoD/VA dosing studies, along with the other 21 peer-reviewed clinical trials, confirm that HBOT helps heal brain wounds. The actual data in those government studies confirm what their editorial comments deny. And three of the Principle Investigators wrote positively in the studies and later commentary, confirming that HBOT is safe and effective:

  • “Randomization to the chamber . . . . offered statistical and in some measures clinically significant improvement over local routine TBI care.”

  • “total scores for [both] groups revealed significant improvement over the course of the study for both the sham-control group …. and the HBO2 group.”

  • “[HBOT] is a healing environment.”

  • “Both intervention groups demonstrated improved outcomes compared with [personal care services] alone.”

  • “HBO2 improved post-concussive and PTSD symptoms, cognitive processing speed, sleep quality, and balance function, most dramatically in those with PTSD.”

  • “At least fair evidence was found that the intervention improves health outcomes and concludes that benefits outweigh harm. . . Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for mild traumatic brain injury and PTSD should be considered a legitimate adjunct therapy.”

  • “We cannot ignore the fact that people got better.”

Second, HBOT has been shown to virtually eradicate suicidal ideation and allow patients to get off almost all prescribed drugs, including those that warn of suicidal ideation. The following chart from the VA makes clear that service member suicide deaths since 9/11 exceed 146,000. Prescribed drug overdose deaths during the same time period exceed 109,000. That’s over a quarter million avoidable deaths, even as the Veteran population has decreased. Add in the 796,340+ diabetic foot ulcer patients who have succumbed to death within 5 years following largely avoidable lower limb amputations — most without ever being told that amputation could be avoided. That number of 796,340 veterans is more than all KIA since beginning of WWI (623,982)

Veteran Suicide

Third, the picture that leads this piece is meant to convey a staggering realization of how government and public policies have led to unanticipated, negative consequences. The epidemics we are addressing here are such crises, with awful, reprehensible human consequences. Two examples: Tuskegee, and the near-eradication of the plains buffalo in the 19th century.

The government had its reasons to eliminate bison. “One of the biggest advocates of buffalo slaughter was General William Tecumseh Sherman. ‘General Sherman remarked . . . . that the quickest way to compel the Indians to settle down to civilized life was to send ten regiments of soldiers to the plains, with orders to shoot buffaloes until they became too scarce to support the redskins.'” While it is possible to repopulate bison, the hundreds of thousands of Veterans now passed prematurely due to suicides, drug overdoses, and unnecessary lower limb amputations are not coming back. Nor are some 100 poor black citizens of Alabama.

“The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male”, conducted by the US Public Health Service and the CDC between 1932 and 1972, led to the unwitting deaths of nearly 100 subjects out of 400 due to complications of syphilis. Though penicillan was in wide use for nearly 30 years of the 40-year study, none of the participants was told of its availability and the near-sure cure of the syphilis after penicillan use. The Tuskegee experiment has been called one of the most significant events in the history of bioethics. In 1973, Senator Edward Kennedy conducted congressional hearings into the study. Those hearings led to the passage of the National Research Act and, in turn, the establishment of institutional review boards, principles of informed consent, and protection of vulnerable populations.

It took forty years for the government to end the Tuskegee experiment. The President Clinton apology contained these words: “No power on Earth can give you back the lives lost, the pain suffered, the years of internal torment and anguish. What was done cannot be undone. But we can end the silence. We can stop turning our heads away. We can look at you in the eye and finally say on behalf of the American people, what the United States government did was shameful, and I am sorry.”

It’s all too familiar: “If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.” Government policy in the case of Veterans has devolved to turning a blind eye and using statistics to paper over the preventable tragedies. Families of the dead die a little every day; yearly, authorities hold more conferences, pass more ineffective laws, and increase budgets for Suicide prevention strategies, even as the suicides continue to increase.

Veterans tell of a relentless cycle in the VA, familiar to the families of the brain wounded. The faceless bureaucracy and unending appointments that too often end in cancellation. The inhumanity affects veterans with brain wounds, or suffering from Burn Pit toxins, Camp Lejeune toxic water, or as far back as Agent Orange victims. It starts with denial: it didn’t happen. Then delay: you’ll have to wait. Then too often the deception: wounded are made to feel ghosted, met with indifference and a sense of betrayal. Inevitably, the drugs, the endless changes of prescriptions, dosages, and care givers. Many of those drugs lead to depression, adding to the need for anti-depressants that warn of suicidal ideation. And, too often, death: hundreds of thousands of suicides and drug overdoses.

This cycle can be broken. Denial, delay, deception, drugs, depression, death is not worthy of us. This series is an appeal to both law and our morality. We must look Veterans in the eye, especially the brain wounded, and tell them that we both can and will do more to make real brain wound healing treatments available. We must begin with acknowledgement of the real science, the positive changes in our understanding of brain wounding, and the mechanisms of action to heal those hundreds of thousands of Veterans denied a chance at a return to normal.

Part two will be a look at just how dangerous Modern War has become to the brain: BLAST Injury, Burn Pits, and the nature of whole body damage/polytrauma. It will include a primer on brain wounding that seeks to differentiate real physical damage from the “mental health” symptoms that remain the target of conventional military medicine.

Join us on the journey to explain, to understand, and to TreatNOW.

The TreatNOW Mission is ending service member suicides. Along the way, we have learned that we can end suicidal ideation, help end symptoms of PTSD, and heal brain wounds to end the effects of BLAST injury, mild TBI Persistent Post Concussive Syndrome, and polytrauma.

Heal Brains. Stop Suicides. Restore Lives. TreatNOW

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