DoD: “From a suicide perspective, we are on a path to be as bad as last year.”
No, the picture above is not a metaphor for the USAF or an airman groping for a new suicide-prevention strategy. It is the latest iteration of the USAF suicide prevention training. (USAF VR) The thought is that Virtual Reality is a more effective intervention to get service members to help their battle buddies stop suicidal ideation and behavior. According to the Times, “Officials are hoping that an immersive virtual reality experience aimed at getting airmen to intervene will succeed where years of traditional training have failed.”
A piece referenced by the Times notes: “According to SOCOM records, there were 117 suicides among Special Operations forces from 2007 to 2015, peaking at 23 in 2012 — a rate of 39.3 per 100,000, compared with 22.9 per 100,000 for the armed forces as a whole. The rate gradually declined after that, falling to eight cases in 2017. That year, one of the largest efforts to understand military suicide ever undertaken — a study examining suicide attempts by soldiers during the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — found that Special Operations forces might be more resilient than the Army’s general-purpose forces, because of “rigorous selection, intense training, strong unit cohesion or psychological and biological characteristics.” The next year, S.O.F. suicides spiked nearly threefold above 2017’s total. (SOF Suicides)
As with all other Suicide Prevention strategies employed by the VA and DoD — at great cost — there is no mention of the systemic failure to address the untreated brain wounds and drugs that warn of “suicidal ideation”. There is no doubt that much more can be done to learn about suicide, and techniques to intervene, and organizational approaches to remove the stigma of confessing to mental health problems. But hoping to arrest and reverse the suicide and sexual abuse epidemics in DoD and the VA is tantamount to teaching meditative techniques to control diarrhea.
Traumatic Brain Injuries and PTSD and Post-Concussive Syndrome are behind too many suicides. Hoping for brain damage and deterioration to go away or somehow become more manageable is a recipe for more suicides. Treat brain wounds using Hyperbaric Oxygenation (HBOT) and other proven safe and effective therapies. Stop overprescribing opioids and drugs. Recognize that mental health professionals are lagging behind in what the whole world knows about brain wounds, and how to help heal those wounds and eliminate symptoms of depression and fear and self-loathing and pain. Add alternative therapies like HBOT and Functional Medicine protocols. Inform the wounded that help exists, and that 7,500 of their compatriots have been lucky enough to start their healing with HBOT. By all means talk to them, but heal them rather than repeating the mistakes that GEN Bolduc flagged as he was forced out of a stellar career: “They’re throwing a lot of money at it, but it’s not solving the problem.”
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