Daily Video

November 11, 2008

Military Sees Rise in Troop Suicides

The army reports that suicides among active duty personnel have doubled in recent years. With low recruitment levels and wars continuing in both Iraq and Afghanistan, many soldiers have had to deploy multiple times, which might be contributing to the increase.

This report tells one family’s story of battling with the mental effects of going to war and struggling to get adequate therapy and tools to deal with post traumatic stress. The NewsHour’s Betty Ann Bowser also talks to the Army and Department of Veterans Affairs about how they are responding to the rise, and to veterans’ advocates fighting for better mental health services.

The Army has started several programs aimed at reaching soldiers suffering from depression; including hiring more mental health workers and starting a suicide hotline, but some advocates say it is not enough.


“I was not prepared for the man that came home. No one told me what to prepare for, what to look for. No one said he would be different. No one said he’d be angry.” – Tracy Eiswert, wife of specialist Scott Eiswert

“Our research supports the more deployments that you have, the higher the likelihood of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.” Col. Elspeth Ritchie, U.S. Army

“It’s happening all across America right now because the V.A. system has become so adversarial and because V.A. is under an enormous burden of demand from hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans filing claims. They don’t have the time and the staff to provide the level of assistance that they should.” Paul Sullivan, Veterans for Common Sense

Warm Up Questions

1. What are some of the signs that someone is depressed?

2. Why might people who fight in war suffer depression?

Discussion Questions

1. What do you think the Army should be doing to respond to the higher number of suicides?

2. What are some of logistical difficulties in trying to provide adequate mental services to so many soldiers?

3. What are some of the things you would suggest to a friend who is suffering from depression?

4. Imagine you were a soldier in either Iraq or Afghanistan, what are some of the things that would be hard for you to deal with, even once you were back home and out of harm’s way?

Additional Resources

War Vets Suffer Intensified Mental Distress Over Time, Study Finds

Soldiers from Iraq, Afghanistan Cope with Combat Stress

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