Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

More active duty troops died from suicide than fighting in Afghanistan in 2012

Posted by on Dec. 28, 2012 at 9:23 PM
  • 24 Replies

Suicide Hotline Fights To Keep Vets And Troops Alive

Soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border in 2009. This year, more active-duty troops died by suicide than by fighting in Afghanistan.

Emilio Morenatti/AP

At a suicide prevention center in upstate New York, America's troops and veterans are calling in for help.

And that help is needed more than ever. This past year witnessed a terrible death toll from suicide. For the first time in a decade of war, more active-duty troops have taken their own lives this year than have died fighting in Afghanistan.

According to The Military Suicide Report, a blog that follows news on military suicides, 321 active-duty troops killed themselves this year. The U.S. death toll in Afghanistan this year currently stands at 309.

The suicide hotline is just one way to help them.

An Open Line

The Veterans Crisis Line, which is run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, gave me permission to listen in as counselors fielded calls from troops contemplating suicide.

The man on the phone says he'd be better off dead.

Katie Geller, who answered his call, is trying to convince him otherwise.

"I'm thinking about those three small children that you just told me that you love so much. And I hear you say that they might get over it, but, you know, I'm here to say that that probably won't be the case," Geller says.

We can't hear his end of the call, but the vet tells Geller he's lost his house, he's worried about his job, and he's had constant physical pain since he left the service.

The best thing he can give his kids, he says, is a life insurance payment.

"So then what?" asks Geller. "So you kill yourself. It provides for them for a little while. In the meantime, they deal with the loss of their father."

Geller tries to get him to talk about other things, to get him to look forward to seeing his kids tonight.

"What can we do to help you get through today, to keep yourself safe? One thing at a time," she says.

It takes her half an hour to calm him down. Then Geller looks at other ways to help, asking him if she can look at his medical record.

That's where this place becomes much more than a room full of trained listeners. It's inside the VA medical network, so Geller can access a veteran's records and try to help with every aspect of the case.

Searching For Solutions

The epidemic of military suicides is a riddle. More men than women kill themselves, more enlisted men than officers. The number started climbing in 2004, with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in full swing — but suicide is high even among those who did not fight.

The VA has admitted problems with providing mental health care. So this year President Obama ordered measures that include doubling the staff at the Veterans Crisis Line.

The callers aren't always suicidal. Some are just down, and they need someone to answer the phone.

"I know that you're having a tough time, but I do want you to know that if you call us, you're not going to reach a recording here, ever," says John Geller, Katie's husband, who also works at the call center.

He's on the phone with a former Marine. He also served in the Marine Corps, and he works that into the conversation after a while.

Many of the responders here are veterans. In one conversation, John Geller alludes to that connection: "I guess there a reason there's two jarheads on the phone today, right?"

Attempts At Intervention

The setup here sometimes looks more like the headquarters on CSI than a counseling line — especially when the team gets involved in what's called "a rescue."

There's one going on down the hall.

Julianne Mullane, one of the managers, says they've been on this one case for about an hour. They're taking it seriously. The caller says she's got a plan to kill herself.

A young woman called in to the hotline and said that she'd already taken an overdose of some medication, and she was thinking of jumping from a bridge.

The team here is working to stop her. One responder keeps the caller talking on the line; but at the same time, she's typing instant messages to a colleague. Those messages include every clue about where the woman is calling from. A third person calls up the police in the woman's hometown.

Mullane says the Veterans Crisis Line has done 30,000 successful interventions across the country since 2007. But they can't save everyone. Sometimes veterans call only to say goodbye or to let the authorities know where to find their bodies, so their family won't have to.

Mullane says the team managed to guide local police to the woman's home, but she didn't want their help.

It goes on for hours.

The team gets the police to go back to her door, and they help check the young woman into the hospital. The Crisis Line team counts another successful rescue, but there's no celebration.

Everyone here realizes a lot needs to be done to prevent veterans from getting so low that they need a crisis line.

Meanwhile, the night shift arrives, and the calls keep coming in.

The Veterans Crisis Line number is 1-800-273-8255

Naughty Wittle Puppy

by on Dec. 28, 2012 at 9:23 PM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
by Ruby Member on Dec. 28, 2012 at 9:54 PM
5 moms liked this

We are doing a poor job of keeping our troops and the vets mentally healthy. Not just the military, but, average citizens too. 

by on Dec. 28, 2012 at 10:13 PM
1 mom liked this

 This is so sad, This is why I am Anti-war. I want the military back home, away from that unholy mess in the middle east.

by Bazinga! on Dec. 28, 2012 at 10:25 PM

 So sad.

by Milami on Dec. 28, 2012 at 10:27 PM


Quoting muslimahpj:

We are doing a poor job of keeping our troops and the vets mentally healthy. Not just the military, but, average citizens too. 


by ~FreeSpirit~ on Dec. 28, 2012 at 11:30 PM

 This is so sad.

by AllieCat on Dec. 28, 2012 at 11:33 PM
3 moms liked this

Quoting muslimahpj:

We are doing a poor job of keeping our troops and the vets mentally healthy. Not just the military, but, average citizens too. 

Absolutely agree.

When a service member shows signs of needing help and people turn a blind eye, they are helping to create the monster that some end up becoming.  Then there are those that refuse to seek help and not recognize they need it.  They are programed to think seeking help is a sign of weakness.

~*~Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to.~*~

by ~FreeSpirit~ on Dec. 28, 2012 at 11:44 PM

"The Other Side, Part 1"    ( GSH)

Pt 2

by ~FreeSpirit~ on Dec. 28, 2012 at 11:46 PM

 "The Other Side, Part I"

Lyrics by  Gil-Scott Heron

Sometimes I feel like I'm just wasting time
Looking for another side

Sometime I feel like I'm losing my mind ‘cause there ain't
No other side

Sometimes I'm just spinning my wheels, ain't no big deal
Morning, there's another side

Sometimes I feel like I'm just standing in place, ain't no real race
Ain't no other side

Life is like a circle and you end up where you started
If you end up where you started ain't no other side

Yeah, but if life is like a curtain that I'm 90% certain that I'm looking through at something
Yes, I'm almost touching something on the other side

Yeah, the opposite of new is old
The opposite of young is old
Seems like everything has got another side
Yeah, but young ones want to be old ones
Old ones know what they would do if they was young ones
People ain't never really satisfied
People ain't never satisfied

If life is like a mirror then the nearer you get clearer
You can see it so much clearer
Feel like you know about the other side

My friends all swear that they know

What I should do with my life
How I should run my life
What should be happening with my life
They're on the other side

They're on the outside
I'm on the inside

Things always look so much better on the other side
Four O'clock in the morning
They don't know
All the things I been needing
They don't know
Breaking out in a sweat
And they don't know

Feeling down
And they don't know
They don't know the other side

I need to go home
Momma could change it
Daddy could help me
Yes, I could go home

Yeah, Momma don't need to see me this way
Know me this way
Touch me this way
Love me this way
Find me this way
I can't go home

I'm saying
I don't want to call him
I don't want to know him
I don't want to need him
I don't want to feel it
I don't want to know

But I know, know know

Hey, home
So I say tomorrow
Tomorrow [repeat]
I'm going home
Tomorrow ain't coming
Tomorrow will always where it was
Tomorrow [repeat]
I need to go home
Maybe I could start all over at home
Without the whispers

Hanging on me
Pulling on me, rolling with me
Pulling on me

Yes, I'd like to go home
Without the whispers


by René on Dec. 29, 2012 at 12:38 AM

Very sad :(

by Silver Member on Dec. 29, 2012 at 10:45 PM

sad, but certainly not shocking. 

Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)