Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Suicide is always with us, takes so many forms, never sadder than in PTSD

Does the Japanese custom of “spilling one’s guts” over dishonor still take place? Suicide is much in the news, often as some terrorist makes a statement – as murder, even when coupled with suicide. Suicide has such varied forms, the bullied teenager on the internet and her mother’s pill bottle, so different from the addicted beauty queen boozing her way to oblivion.

In the file cabinet of a mental health counselor’s mind, there are so many stories. There is the head of a metropolitan police security department pounding on a colleague’s door, and hearing a solitary answering shot from within the house. How different from the Marine’s widow, grieving in fifty minute counseling segments for the loss of a strong man.

 I would hope that we are all concerned and grieve at the rise of suicides among our military; too many rotations in and out of war. It is not new. Are you familiar with Siegfried Sasson, a British “tommy” from a century ago? He wrote of “Suicide in the Trenches.”

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
. . . . . . . .
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

I am so glad that the President is now sending letters of kindness and appreciation to the families of those whose deaths are as much due to the enemy’s hands, as their own. My conclusion is that the fallout about which we so dread to hear is as much a biological outcome of stress as the Post-Traumatic Disorder itself. I would as much like to see a re-examination of the fatal self woundings of war as of belated medals for acts of heroism. Thank you, Mr. President.

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