Sadly, it seems our support ends there.
Homelessness – and with it, suicide – are so frequent among veterans that we’ve almost become desensitized to them. The numbers alone – let alone the names, faces, and stories – are staggering:
- Approximately 8,030 veterans commit suicide every year; nearly 70% are age 50 or older;
- Suicide claims the lives of 22 veterans each day (more than double the rate of the general population);
- About 200,000 veterans are homeless nationwide (approximately one-third of the total homeless population); and
- 76% suffer from mental illness and/or substance addiction.
Let’s be clear, however: military service alone does not increase the chances for either homelessness or mental illness. Martha Bruce, professor of sociology in psychiatry at Cornell University, stated, “Going into the military isn’t going to increase your risk of suicide. It’s the experiences either during [service], or in the transition, or after.”
After the horrors of war, what can our service men and women expect when they return to this country? Some of them return to find their homes in foreclosure. Many of them are unable to find stable employment. Those with mental or physical ailments as a result of their service can wait up to three years to receive the benefits to which they are entitled. With no other options, they take to panhandling and living on the streets, which further exacerbates otherwise treatable illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Furthermore, veteran homelessness has been increasing at an alarming rate.
"With no other options, they take to panhandling and living on the streets, which further exacerbates otherwise treatable illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."
If these trends are to be reversed, we must take immediate action. Banks must be forbidden to foreclose on the homes of those on active duty. Those who are fit to work need to be employed, not prevented from working because they don’t have much civilian work experience. Those entitled to benefits need immediate treatment, not put on years-long waiting lists. It is time we make our veterans a national priority.
(Written by Amanda Molé, CO! Contributing Writer)