TPJ: And yet, have you seen much if any coverage of this in the mainstream media lately? No, because mental health issues are still stigmatized and especially in the military where you're supposed to "tough it out" as a macho man. So, not surprisingly suicides are up:Marines are trying to kill themselves at a record pace this year despite a 2009 program aimed at stemming the problem, according to Marine Corps data. Eighty-nine Marines tried to commit suicide through May, most commonly by overdose or lacerations, according to statistics and the Marine Corps suicide prevention program officer, Navy Cmdr. Aaron Werbel. At that rate, there could be more than 210 attempted suicides this year. There were a record 164 attempted suicides in 2009.
TPJ: Yet there is some hope the military is finally seeing the critical danger and importance of addressing mental health problems:
The Marines introduced a training program for sergeants and corporals last year aimed at suicide education and urging them to become more knowledgeable about the lives of their younger Marines.
"We continue to maintain that this is an issue of leadership and getting our Marines who need help to the care they deserve," says Marine Lt. Gen. Richard Zilmer, deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs. "In every case, there is a unique life to understand behind the statistics." Werbel says there is some hint of progress — the proportion of suicides committed by Marines who are sergeants or lower ranking has declined from a high of 93% to 79% this year. But the suicide rate in the Marine Corps eclipsed the Army's 22-per-100,000 rate last year. There are fewer Army suicides this year than at this time last year, Army statistics show.
TPJ: If we can not even get a sustained effort to highlight mental illness and brain traumas with our heroes of war then what chance do we average citizens have of getting the countries attention to increase awareness and funding for mental health? Sometimes I think the cancer cure awareness programs suck the oxygen out of the room for other diseases. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against a cure for cancer. I hope that we find cures for cancer soon but we need to bring awareness to other diseases in the meant time. All disabling diseases deserve attention, awareness and funding. We can ignore mental illness but it won't ignore us because the less we pay attention the greater increase we see in work place shootings, suicides and crime. It's time to stop the stigma and work together to find cures and better treatment programs for the mentally disabled. In related news, there is a lot of debate of whether soldiers who develop mental trauma from war should get purple hearts for sustaining a battlefield injury. I say absolutely yes. Doing otherwise only adds to the stigma that mental illness isn't a real injury or illness.
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