Military suicides are at an all-time high, according to reports from the pentagon, with one troop taking his or her own life nearly every day for the past two months.
That our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are facing tremendous cumulative stress sort of goes without saying, considering the current conflict is now the longest-running war in American history. Many in our military report feeliing that they are no longer a part of their families - wives and children have had to make it without their fathers and husbands for so long that they seem strangers in their own homes.
Many attribute the problem to risky behavior, but could there be additional reasons for the spike in suicides? My friend Remington Nevin thinks so. Remington is a medical doctor for the Army, and he says the rise in the use of psychotropic drugs may be at the root of the rise in troops killing themselves.
This report corroborates his story - many troops are now being treated for PTSD with multiple drugs for depression, sleeplessness, nightmares, and anxiety. One drug in particular, a sleeping pill called Seroquel, is now the number 2 drug throughout the VA system. Seroquel has been suspected in the deaths of several soldiers and Marines, many of whom were also taking up to a dozen other prescriptions at the same time.
Perhaps we should stop medicating the life out of our troops and work to mitigate the source of their problems. A military psychologist for the special operations community told me years ago that there are three main factors that mitigate stress in combat troops. Focusing on these three facets has been proven to help soldiers cope.
1. Knowledge - the more tactically and technically efficient a warrior is, the less anxiety he will experience in battle.
2. Cameraderie - when a troop feels connected to his or her comrades - both on and off duty, that esprit de corps will carry him through the toughest situations. Brothers dissipate stress.
3. Discipline - the more disciplined a warrior, the less stress he will feel. Discipline is like armor against stress.
Come to think of it, these three facets follow right along with the verse from 2 Timothy 1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love and self-discipline.
Nothing in 2nd Timothy recommends psychotropic drugs, by the way.
Let's pray for our troops, that those who don't know Him will come to know the source of all hope, faith and the peace that passes all understanding.