Sunday, March 29, 2009


VQR has just bestowed on the web at large the most disturbing fact I have heard all year. Perhaps in many years. According to a piece by Ashley Gilbertson in their Fall 2008 issue (audio interview posted here), every month 690 Iraq/Afghanistan veterans commit suicide.

I know that the whole casualty model is flawed to begin with (the vast number of amputees and vets with brain trauma attest to that), but this simple monthly number of 690 makes it obscenely incomplete.

According to my dad, the lesson that the silent, taciturn Texas veterans he grew up with had to offer was this: “The Army may teach you how to kill, but it doesn’t teach you how to live with yourself afterwards.”

Check out the numbers compiled by Michelle Paley in the online article itself:

4,128 number of American soldier combat deaths in Iraq (as of August 2, 2008)

21 number of American soldier suicides in Iraq (as of August 2, 2008)

550 average number of completed suicides per month by Iraq/Afghanistan veterans not in the care of the VA

140 average number of completed suicides per month by Iraq/Afghanistan veterans within the care of the VA

1,000 approximate number of attempted suicides per month by Iraq/Afghanistan veterans in the care of the Department of Veteran Affairs

300,000 approximate number of Iraq veterans who report signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or major depression

3,000 number of mental healthcare professionals specializing in PTSD hired by the VA since 2005

HR 327 bill signed into law by President Bush on November 5, 2007, mandating mental health training for VA staff, mental health screenings for veterans receiving VA care, and suicide counselors for all VA health care facilities

183 average wait, in days, for a disability claim to be processed for Iraq/Afghanistan veterans

1,600 number of calls by veterans to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in one month, three months after the NSPL veteran hotline was created in July 2007

8,500 approximate number of calls by veterans to the NSPL in one month, twelve months after the veteran hotline was introduced

47 percentage of Iraq veterans with PTSD or depression who have not sought treatment

2–3 billions of dollars veteran PTSD and depression cost the US annually

2 years it would take for improved veteran care to pay for itself, based on increased productivity and reduced medical costs

Isn’t it satisfying when our little literary subculture produces something that is not only culturally relevant, but relevant now, in a big bad way?

1 comment:

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