Possible Causes of The Military Suicide Epidemic

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Erosion of Protective Factors

By Roy Miller roydotmiller@gmail.com

Hey Dr. Marcinko,

I’m one of the guys that reads you day by day. I come from a family with a military tradition, but unfortunately I couldn’t follow this path due to an eye problem. Instead, I became very passionate about army related stuff and I tend to bookmark and save as much material I can find.

I just came across this worrying material about suicide in the army and I’d like to share it with you, maybe you’ll find it interesting:

It’s quite a huge problem that unfortunately hasn’t made it on the public agenda and it’s continuously ignored, so I’m trying to create some buzz around it.

There are 3 protective factors to prevent suicide:

1. Belongingness:

The cohesion and camaraderie of a military unit can induce intense feelings of belonging for many service members. Time away from the unit, however, may result in a reduced or thwarted sense of belonging, as individuals no longer have the daily support of their units and feel separate and different from civilians. This is especially true for Guardsmen and Reservists.

2. Usefulness:

The responsibility inherent in military service, the importance of tasks assigned to relatively junior personnel and the high level of interaction among unit members establish the importance and usefulness of each unit member, particularly in an operational environment. In contrast, the experience of living in a garrison environment (for active component personnel) or returning to a civilian job (for Guardsmen, Reservists and veterans) or, worse, unemployment, can introduce feelings of uselessness.

3. Aversion to pain or death

Repeated exposure to military training as well as to violence, aggression and death dulls one’s fear of death and increases tolerance for pain. Thus, the very experience of being in the military erodes this protective factor, even for service members who have not deployed or experienced combat, in part because service members experience pain and discomfort from the beginning of their training.


Erosion of moral certainty

Moral injury: “damage to your deeply held beliefs about right and wrong. It might be caused by something that you do or fail to do, or by something that is done to you – but either way it breaks that sense of moral certainty.”

• Failing to protect their ‘brothers’
• Friendly fire
• Deaths of civilians, particularly women and children
• Discharged from the military


It is not the fear and the terror that service members endure in the battlefield that inflicts most psychological damage, but feelings of shame and guilt related to the moral injuries they suffer.



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4 Responses

  1. ME-P

    You should have this family speak on all miltary bases.

    And, here is how another family took a very difficult experience and transformed it into an inspiration for all. He was an Air Force reservist as well.


    Joe Deano


  2. VA still on paper DI claims

    Did you know that VA disability claims are still managed on paper, rather than computer systems to track a veteran’s injuries, illnesses and service?


    And, Uncle Sam wants eMRs for private healthcare. What about the Blue Button initiative? Go figure!

    Dr. Williams


  3. The Final Exit Network

    Some believe that mentally competent adults have a basic human right to end their lives when they suffer from a fatal or irreversible illness or intractable pain, when their quality of life is personally unacceptable, and the future holds only hopelessness and misery.

    Such a right should be an individual choice, including the timing and companion, free of any restrictions by the law, clergy, medical profession, even friends and relatives no matter how well-intentioned.


    The FEN does not encourage anyone to end their life, does not provide the means to do so, and does not assist in a person’s death.



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