Veteran Suicide is More From Guilt Than From PTSD

It’s been almost five months since I’ve written anything, and this post is not going to contain much of my writing, but rather sharing with you a note RootsAction sent out to its vast membership containing a clip of me in a talk I gave in London at the end of February:

It should be noted that traumatic brain injury, which in some studies has been found to be present in more than 20% of Afghan and Iraq veterans, and from which I suffer from, also has a very real and significant link to suicide in veterans.

The full video of the talk in London is found below. That talk, titled: “War, Journalism and Whistleblowers — 15 years after Katharine Gun’s Truth Telling on the Verge of the Iraq War”, included Katharine Gun, Thomas Drake, Jesselyn Radack, Silkie Carlo, Norman Solomon and Duncan Campbell, all of whom are really incredible and brave people that I look up to and admire.

I would like to share other parts of that talk later, as we as a panel were questioned by two Iraqi women during the Q&A. Their questions, testimony and witness led to a very emotional and powerful session for many of us.

A couple of days later Tom, Jess and I participated in a panel in Graz, Austria, at the 2018 Elevate Festival. We were joined by Diana Bartelo, Cian Westmoreland and Lisa Ling, as well as by video by Dan Ellsberg.

Below is the note that RootsAction sent out. I hope to begin writing again in the near future. I appreciate all of you following this blog and my work. Peace.

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In this video clip from a recent RootsAction Education Fund event, U.S. veteran and whistleblower Matthew Hoh shatters the popular myth that post-traumatic stress disorder is behind the high suicide rates for U.S. veterans. He notes that PTSD has the lowest connection to suicide of any mental health problem, according to the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA).

Well, then what’s causing so many people so frequently thanked for their “service” to kill themselves?

The answer turns out not to be a secret, but something that most people and most organizations would rather not mention.

Since 1990, Hoh tells us, the VA has known that guilt over participation in killing human beings is the best predictor of suicide. Veterans are killing themselves because they feel guilty for what they’ve done.

Ssshhh! You shouldn’t say that! It’s anti-veterans!

Really? Does it help current veterans or impede the production of more veterans to hush up the problems they face? Haven’t we learned that the first step in addressing a problem is identifying it?

Hoh is himself a veteran who has struggled with a wide array of issues, including guilt, PTSD, brain injury, and substance abuse. He has been certified by North Carolina as a Peer Support Specialist for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder. He knows of what he speaks. His interest is in helping other veterans. In the video he cites the studies that back up his statements.

Will you help us to continue to support whistleblowers like Matthew Hoh and to produce events like the one in the video? Click here to donate what you can, tax-deductible in the United States.

Matthew Hoh had nearly 12 years of experience with America’s wars overseas with the United States Marine Corps, Department of Defense and State Department. In 2009, Hoh resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan with the State Department over the American escalation of the war and, in 2010, he was named the Ridenhour Prize Recipient for Truth Telling.

Hoh has been a Senior Fellow with the Center for International Policy since 2010. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Public Accuracy, an Advisory Board Member for ExposeFacts, North Carolina Committee to Investigate Torture, Veterans For Peace, and World BEYOND War, and he is an Associate Member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Click here to see the video and consider making a contribution.

The event from which this video is taken marked 15 years since the March 2, 2003, story provided by whistleblower Katharine Gun revealed that the United States and Great Britain were working together to spy on other nations’ delegations to the United Nations as part of an effort to coerce them into voting for a war on Iraq.

We cannot create such events or provide support for such whistleblowers if you don’t help. Please donate!

Please click here. Your tax-deductible donation will help us continue.

4 thoughts on “Veteran Suicide is More From Guilt Than From PTSD

  1. Reblogged this on I Ain't Marchin' Anymore and commented:
    I’ve been looking for this video since March, when Matthew Hoh and so many others we know here spoke at Berlin’s Elevate Festival.They even Skyped in Dan Ellsberg. And I love their panel tag: “40 Years of Whistleblowing, Friom Pentagon to Panama Papers.”

    Like

  2. Cian, my heart goes out to you, your “moral injury”/ guilt is clearly so painful to you that it is often at the limits of what you can bear, at any moment. Since I learned about Michael’s efforts to bring out the truth that it is the sense of guilt that correlates most strongly with vet suicides, not PTSD, it has caused me to wonder how people with combat guilt leading to suicidal ideation can be helped to find a positive path of healing for their lives, and I suspect that you are showing the way personally.

    It seems that acknowledgement of guilt, acceptance of responsibility for harm, allowing oneself to experience the full depths of remorse, and trying to figure out a pathway of making amends from the harms done, whether that be apologizing to those harmed, or as you are doing, telling the truth to the world of the wrongs that have been done. The Navajos have healing ceremony for returning warriors suffering from combat guilt, that helps them through these stages, where the community rather than denying the guilt and moral harm, acknowledge and share the moral harm, for we are the ones who sent out our young warriors to kill in our name, typically without any proof that a person was guilty or deserving of death.

    Does acknowledging that your death by suicide will do nothing to prevent further unjust killings but your life and truth telling and constant suffering with your guilt might save some lives help you to keep going forward every day despite the constant moral pain of it?

    I do not regard Cian or any of our young warriors as monsters any worse than any of the rest of us, for psychologists have demonstrated that nearly all of us are willing to administer a lethal force of punishment when ordered to do so in a context of peer pressure to comply with a group pressure to do so. The blood that Cian helped spill is upon all of our hands who live in this nation and pay taxes here. Only by acknowledging these wrongs can we begin to change our culture to a peaceful one that will strengthen our young to resist peer pressure to cause harms.

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