Monday, September 15, 2008

OEF/OIF Veteran Suicide Toll: Nearly 15% of Overall U.S. Military Casualties Result from Suicide

See Afghanistan, Iraq Veteran Army Suicide Rate Continues to Climb; PTSD Timeline Update for updated OEF/OIF veteran suicide data -- Ilona Meagher, 11/4/09

Back in February, the Marines released their military branch's updated suicide statistics. They revealed the number of Afghanistan and Iraq combat troops and veterans who took their own lives in 2007 had doubled over the previous year.

Earlier this month, the Army reported its own current soldier suicide data, reflecting another year of record increases. And just last week, the VA chimed in with their latest OEF/OIF veterans suicide figures -- also another record-breaker -- for its Afghanistan and Iraq veteran clients.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Unmaking of a Marine: ePluribus Media Reviews Packing Inferno

The always fabulous Cho of ePluribus Media reviews Iraq veteran Tyler Boudreau's upcoming book, Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine:

Packing Inferno is a thoughtful meditation on the warrior class, combat stress and where real hell lies, which as Boudreau will tell you, isn’t in the war theatre.

The battleground is merely the foyer.

The real hell is here and now
, in the aftermath, daily, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, confronting the wounds -- physical and psychological -- that are the inevitable outcomes of war.

In 2004, Boudreau served as a Marine corps captain in Iraq.

Since then, his 12-years of active duty service and wartime lessons have inspired him to attempt to stir the nation's consciousness and conscience on war-related humanitarian subjects like the Iraqi refugee crisis.

To get to know the man behind the Marine a bit better, let's look beyond the book via recently published pieces into Boudreau's efforts to do right by the people he was sent to liberate.

Military Kids Also Serve, Feel Stress and Strain of Nation's Wars

Did you know that about 700,000 American children have had at least one parent deployed in the Middle East since our invasion of Afghanistan? Today, over 155,000 kids have a deployed parent overseas supporting our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While a resilient bunch, a lot of worry and strain are being carried on their little shoulders. Are they getting all the support they need?

Back in May, I spoke at a "Healing the Hidden Wounds" summit organized by National Public Television and NAMI-TN. Among the stream of amazing speakers drawn together that day was a 24-year military wife and mom (and active professional social worker with Ft. Campbell's Family Readiness Group and the Centerstone Community Mental Health Centers).

Susan Pease's words were among the more poignant of the day. She tried to answer the question, "What do military families need?" From my notes, here were a few of her responses:

  • Military kids are desperately in need of resources and supports. Their needs appear to be among the most overlooked of all aspects of of our nation's protracted wartime stance. While Military Family Life Consultants, Military OneSource and MilitaryHOMEFRONT are wonderful resources, more are needed.

  • Military children are acting out and need more peer group programs. Some are stealing prescription drugs from parents, coping with abandonment issues and angry that their deployed parents have missed so many important days (like graduation, etc.) over the years. These are signs that more substantial peer group programs are needed to help cushion their experience. Parents can't do it all.

  • Parents are also under stress and need more child care tools. Left behind on their own -- as strong and capable as they are -- they are starved for supports and tools to help their kids to cope with the many emotions they feel before, during and after deployment. Parents need more adolescent care help, and parenting help, and activities that will bring kids together and foster ways for them to be able to talk their feelings and anger and worries out with each other.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Heroism, PTSD, Suicide, and September 11

From NPR:

New data from a public health registry that tracks the health effects of 9/11 suggest that as many as 70,000 people may have developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the terrorist attacks.

The estimate, released Wednesday by New York City's Department of Health, is based on an analysis of the health of 71,437 people who enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry. They agreed to be tracked for up to 20 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and the study was based on answers they volunteered about their health two and three years after the attack.

Of the estimated 400,000 people believed to have been heavily exposed to pollution from the disaster, data suggests that 35,000 to 70,000 people developed PTSD and 3,800 to 12,600 may have developed asthma, city health officials said.

They include rescue and recovery workers, lower Manhattan residents, area workers, commuters and passers-by.

One of those people on the scene was a man named Kenny Johannemann, a WTC janitor who worked part-time in the basement of the North Tower. Michael Daly picks up the story in the New York Daily News:

Johannemann often said he might have been killed on 9/11 had he not stopped to get a cup of coffee just before the plane hit. Otherwise, he might have been on an elevator when a jet crashed and flaming fuel poured down the shaft.

Instead, he was waiting for an elevator when he heard a huge bang and the doors burst open. A man tumbled out on fire and Johannemann helped him to an ambulance. "He was burned up bad but he was still alive," Johannemann told People magazine.

In the aftermath, Johannemann appeared on the "Jenny Jones Show" and received the letter from the White House. Privately, the hero became a reclusive alcoholic.

"He just started backing away and not bothering with anyone," Joseph Maya recalled. He avoided family, even on the holidays he had always loved. He seemed convinced he was friendless and alone.

Eleven days ago, on August 31, he committed suicide.

Remembering September 11

ilona_aa_oct2001For those of you who've been along with me on my personal journey these past seven years, you'll probably remember that I was a former 15-year flight attendant with American Airlines the day two of our airplanes were used in the terrorist attacks on our country.

In years past, I've written and shared photo essays on my experience of the events and my journey to Ground Zero three weeks after the attacks to pay my respects (my entire 911 collection of pictures is now on Flickr as well).

100201_chgo_ohare 100201_nyc_001 100201_nyc_002b 100201_nyc_011 100201_nyc_017 100201_nyc_020 100201_nyc_037 100201_nyc_044 100201_nyc_019 100201_nyc_058 100201_nyc_060 100201_nyc_063

While I personally was far removed from any danger that day, my life -- or, more directly, my career trajectory -- was directly affected by the day's unraveling. In fact, my advocacy for our returning veterans today can be traced back to the events of September 11, 2001.

I was one of the lucky stews.

Senior enough not to be among the 7,000 flight attendants at our airline suffering forced lay offs that fall, I also had a great husband (an AA Captain at the time; now a first officer due to their own division's sizable layoffs) who supported my choice to take the early retirement packages being offered to us.

It turned out to be a prescient move.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

National Council Magazine Reports on Community Programs Providing Support for Military Families

Far too often the needs of our military families are still not being fully met by the overwhelmed traditional healthcare systems they rely on for their care. As a result, over the past few years, local organizations have sprung up all across the country, offering tailor-made support services and reintegration programs.

The trend is covered in full scope and detail in the current issue of National Council Magazine. Filled with first-person accounts, case studies, the latest PTSD data and much more, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare's current quarterly issue is a rich's also available online as a free PDF download.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Join Me at Park Ridge VFW Veterans Town Hall Meeting on TBI/PTSD Brain Scan Imaging

This Tuesday, I'll be taking part in a veterans' issues town hall meeting hosted by the Park Ridge VFW #3579 ("Illinois' Friendliest VFW Post") and State Senator Dan Kotowski. Kotowski has been a great champion of area veterans, his leadership bringing together the Northwest Suburban Veterans Advisory Council, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal VA, private health care and local community members in common cause.

These groups are now all working together to provide this area with a Military Support System and model PTSD diagnosis and treatment program administered by The Vet Center at Alexian Brothers Medical Center.

It's an exceptional resource for the community.

The Center's new Veterans Imaging Program [VIP] is using state-of-the-art brain imaging or mapping technology – more powerful than a standard CAT scan – called MEG to detect the neurobiological signs of PTSD. MEG promises to quickly and accurately spot these brain changes found in PTSD patients in a completely non-invasive way. And this same technology can be used to help detect traumatic brain injury.

We'll be talking about both PTSD and TBI tomorrow night, and I invite you to join us if you're in the area.

[UPDATE Sept. 28, 2008]: A surprise guest, IL Director of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth, very easily and graciously upstaged all of the rest of us. A top thrill for me of the year to have the chance to share a few moments with her and to thank her for her service to us both in and out of uniform. Photos:

vfw_01 vfw_02 vfw_05 vfw_07 vfw_08 vfw_06

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