Home from War: Soldier suicides on the rise
DENVER – The U.S. military is grappling with a disturbing trend—soldiers are killing themselves at an alarming rate. So far this year, an average of one soldier a day is committing suicide.
The suicide rate is outpacing the number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year by some 50-percent.
And there have been high-profile cases here in Colorado.
It’s gotten so bad, that the defense department has even set up a suicide prevention office.
Soldiers we talk to say the reasons for their life-threatening depression are many.
Iraq veteran Dan Thibodeaux of Colorado Springs was so depressed from the injuries he suffered in an IED explosion, he told us that when he came home from war, he held a gun to his head.
“Just don’t know what to do, don’t know where to turn,” Thibodeau said.
And it’s not just the war injuries that are leaving some soldiers depressed.
Army staff sergeant Sandra Ambotaite served in Iraq and never got hurt there.
But when she got home from war, she was in a motorcycle accident near Colorado Springs that left her with a severe spinal injury. She was told she may never walk again and felt like giving up while she was still in the hospital.
“There was points to where I didn`t want to be here anymore,” she said.
From wounds to post traumatic stress and from marital to financial troubles, there are plenty of reasons why depression is so high, and why the suicide rate among soldiers is up an alarming 24 percent over last year.
So far this year, at least 125 active duty service members have killed themselves.
Soldiers like Fort Carson private Jordan Dubois, who posted this message on his Facebook page back in January saying “I’m going to kill myself; this is my last post ever.”
A little over an hour later, he was dead; he’d crashed his truck into a power pole.
Realizing soldier suicide is a burgeoning issue, earlier this year the defense department put out a video plea to all service members.
“From private to general, we shoulder an obligation to look and listen for signs, and we stand ready to intervene and assist our fellow service member or battle buddy in time of need,” Major Bryan Battaglia says in the video.
The military has now set up confidential telephone hotlines, added more mental health workers to the battlefield, and they’re spending more money on researching the reasons why soldiers want to kill themselves in the first place.
“It`s a struggle, it`s a struggle.”
There is hope. Just ask Dan Thibodeau.
He’s back home from war, working on his chronic pain and taking classes on how to get his life back in order.
And Sandra Ambotaite?
She recovered from her spinal injuries, overcame her feelings of hopelessness, and took up mountain climbing. She decided to climb Kilimanjaro a few months ago.
“I felt like I proved to myself that the only disability in life is a negative attitude. Besides that we can do anything regardless of what`s wrong with you or what you`re going through.”
To learn about how to help suicidal soldiers right here in Colorado, click here.
There you can also find more resources for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and every story from our on-going series, on the home from war page at kdvr.com.