We lose close to 18 veterans to suicide on a daily basis. Veteran Andrew “Andy” Marckesano was born in Phoenix, Arizona on October 22, 1986; and just three days after taking a job with the Pentagon in 2020, he took his own life in our nation’s capital. The suicide rate of veterans goes up to 20 suicides daily if active-duty troop members are included
(https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2020/11/12/suicide-rate-among-veterans-up-again-slightly-despite-focus-on-prevention-efforts/). Despite the numerous programs and ongoing research of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), suicide is still a complex problem with too many unknowns that leaves our veterans at high risk.
“Andy” Marckesano graduated as a Green Beret in 2015. As a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant in the 2nd Battalion – 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne)– Andy was once again deployed to Afghanistan in 2017. Despite his history of multiple deployments, it was the one back in 2009, as part of the 82nd Airborne and 75th Ranger Regiment to the Arghandab Valley, that hit him the hardest, according to family and friends. Many of those close to him said he became a “changed man.” Andy, like the story of many veterans, continued taking on redeployments – perhaps feeling disconnected to the “real world.” He was an accomplished soldier, having been recognized with many accommodations including the Silver Star. At the time Andy committed suicide his loved ones recall that there was no notable downward shift or spiral. As with many suicides it was not foreseeable (https://www.wearethemighty.com/mighty-culture/andy-marckesano/).
Mental health service in our country is a weak link in the chain of our healthcare system. We know the value of early interventions in many areas of mental health, yet we have failed miserably in putting measures in place. With all Americans, we need “coordinated efforts at the local, regional, and national levels to implement public health approaches to end suicide”
(https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/data-sheets/2020/2020-National-Veteran-Suicide-Prevention-Annual-Report-11-2020-508.pdf). According to the 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, there has been an unfortunate increase in overall suicidal rates with veterans (after a slight decline from 2016 – 2018). In contrast and more hopeful, there is a decrease in suicides among those veterans utilizing mental health services.
Where do we begin with resolving this crisis? Suicide has no singular cause or pathway, which means the solutions cannot follow a single path. For example, there is a complex interaction of factors (at various levels) that can contribute to an individual’s suicide:
This article is dedicated to my daughter’s friend, who is a Green Beret. To find out more about The Green Beret Foundation, visit: https://greenberetfoundation.org/msg-marckesano-suicide-prevention-fund/
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