Record high active-duty military suicides in 2012


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Posted on February 4, 2013 at 11:18 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 4 at 11:23 PM

AUSTIN -- Last year, 349 military service members took their own lives, according to the U.S. government.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, 22 veterans committed suicide every day in 2009 and 2010.

“It's not a surprise," said Sean Hanna, the director of the Samaritan Center’s Hope for Heroes program in Austin.

Hanna was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving nearly nine years in the Navy.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do. Nothing felt like being with my Marines,” Hanna said.

According to Hanna, difficulty trusting civilians when soldiers return to normal life after forming such unique bonds with fellow soldiers, plays a big role in these reported suicides.

“That sense then, where the trust isn't there, the new life isn't being built like we thought it would be, and then that sense of failure,” said Hanna.

Retired Colonel and Hope for Heroes therapist Jack Swope said there's also a stigma for soldiers seeking mental health treatment.

“Number one, it’s hard to get those people in to admit that they need the help. Number two, willing to accept the help,” Swope told KVUE.

Hope for Heroes works to rebuild that trust through several different methods, like one-on-one therapy and group therapy.

“They want to talk to a military veteran who understands what they're going through," said Swope.

The center also offers what is referred to as “integrative medicine,” like Chinese herbs, that Hanna said has fewer side effects than Western medicine.

Walk into the Hope for Heroes facility, and you’ll find a large room filled with several acupuncture beds.

“The veterans that come in, they're like ‘I can't sleep.’ Then they get on the acupuncture table, we stick needles in them, and they fall asleep in five minutes,’ said Hanna.

As for a more physical method of therapy, Hope for Heroes offers several tai chi and yoga classes several times a week.

“There’s one hour out of their day that they're not watching TV, they're not sitting around thinking about how they feel; they're moving” Hanna said.

If you or someone you know is seeking treatment for PTSD, click here to be directed to Hope for Heroes.