In addition to the physical injuries sustained in conflict, countless servicemen and women have experienced psychological symptoms directly related to their deployment.
Recent studies estimate that 300,000 men and women have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe depression or post-traumatic stress. And there are 18 suicides on average each day among America’s 25 million veterans. Here in Kentucky, Fort Campbell’s suicide rate is currently the highest in the Army. An average of one soldier per week committed suicide there between January and mid-March 2009.
Given the military culture’s emphasis on confidence, strength, and bravery, many service members are reluctant to expose personal vulnerabilities to professional counselors.
Recently, Kentucky Governor Stephen Beshear announced that Kentucky joined the Give an Hour initiative, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national network of mental health professionals providing one hour of free counseling services each week to our returning troops and their families.
Give an Hour provides separate and personal services to this highly vulnerable population, offering options to service members who might otherwise fail to seek or receive appropriate care.
The number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder jumped by almost 70 percent over the 12 months ending June 30, 2007, according to VA records. Give an Hour hopes to supplement the psychological services the military offers.
Kentucky’s goal is to enlist at least 400 clinicians, just 10 percent of our licensed mental health providers. Caring for those who serve our country must be one of our highest priorities.
For more information or to sign up to volunteer or receive services through Give an Hour, please visit www.kentuckysuicideprevention.org.
Michael McFarland, LMFT
State Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Kentucky Department for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Addiction Services, Frankfort