A Serious Problem
By Adriana Colindres
In January 2013, The Associated Press reported obtaining Pentagon figures that show 349 suicides among active-duty troops during 2012. The previous year, there were 301. While acknowledging that statistics don't explain why those suicides happen, the AP article said the problem reflects severe strains on members of the military.
Retired Lieutenant General David Fridovich '74 believes there is sometimes a link between dependency on pain medication and the kind of despondency that can lead to suicide.
"When you have dependencies and/or abuse of opioids and other medicines, coupled with [post-traumatic stress] and traumatic brain injury, you have this increased potential for bad things happening to the patient. And one of those outcomes is suicide," he said.
Other factors that can contribute to severe despondency may include joblessness, an inadequate support system, and, in some ways, a lack of closure to an individual's military service-no clear-cut victory in Afghanistan, for example.
The military medical system is working to improve patient treatment by using a more integrative approach, Fridovich said.
"There are some real advances that have taken place over time because of people talking about it, coming out and talking and saying, ‘Look, you can't cure everything with a pill.'"
Other approaches, including acupuncture and yoga, "are very big as part of treatment plans for both rehabilitation and recovery," he added. "These things, taken all together, seem to have better evidence-based outcomes."