Military leaders are working hard to reduce troop suicides, but the fact that the suicide rate has recently risen has them scrambling for answers. The success of our military depends on the psychological health of our soldiers, so it is important to all of us that experts discuss and research this issue and discover some lasting answers.
The rate of suicide in the Marine Corps is higher than that of any other branch of service. The Marine Corps suffers 24 suicides per 100,000, 11 more than they did in 2006. In comparison, the civilian suicide rate is 20 per 100,000.
One interesting theory on the rising suicide rate has come to the fore, and it is called “moral injury.” Soldiers who suffer moral injury have been exposed to or been part of something that goes against their basic belief system. Some killings can be justifiable but unintended, such as civilian killings. Participation in such actions may violate a core belief system, which results in moral injury. Witnessing or taking part in a battlefield indiscretion can also run counter to core beliefs and produce moral injury.
What is the determination that leads a soldier to suffer moral injury and decide to take his or her own life? A feeling that activities they have participated in or witnessed on the battlefield make them unforgiveable. When particular people feel that they do not deserve forgiveness, they experience hopelessness without any expectation that their status will ever change.
Discussion among Marine Corps units is an important step to resolving this distressing trend. Soldiers need to understand what post traumatic stress disorder and moral injury are, and they need to be assured that they can be treated and returned to their units as useful members. In reality, many men and women have been treated for PTSD and gone on to win a variety of promotions and provide valuable services for their country.
Discussion, counseling, and moral guidance are all tools being used to fight the rising suicide rate in the military. Telemental health counseling, via state-of-the-art video technology, can help our soldiers get the help they need wherever they are deployed.