LEARNED BEHAVIORS

Suicide among veterans is a problem the VA has been focusing on for quite some time. Recent studies have shown that veterans with PTSD who have gone through prior traumatic incidents are more likely to attempt suicide. That makes sense to me; the strength of our experiences and how we react to them shape our future responses. This is especially true for people with PTSD.

Prior traumatic experiences such as child abuse, compound the problem. I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t similar to compounded grief with the trauma so overwhelming that suicide seems to be an acceptable alternative. Perhaps it is a case of compounded grief. It can take many, many years to recover from an abusive childhood and piling additional grief, horror, and terror onto the situation may bring back those feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

Veterans who were exposed to abuse in childhood were eight times more likely to feel suicidal as those who were not exposed to abuse. I guess it’s not surprising that civilians who have been through abusive childhoods are also more likely to resort to suicide. PTSD leaves one feeling vulnerable with no way of protecting yourself. That same feeling can often be a part of why individuals think about attempting suicide. When we’re young, we don’t have the power or resources to respond to physical abuse. Battered children have little say in what happens to them. Growing up without learning how to cope in a health manner is extremely difficult to overcome. Those individuals who used attempted suicide as a way of coping with the situation were six times more likely to attempt suicide as those who had never attempted it.

Understanding the feelings behind suicidal thoughts and the impact trauma has when it is heaped upon additional trauma can only help us better learn how to prevent suicide. As we learn more, we’ll be better able to treat and heal PTSD more quickly and reduce the incidents of suicide in veterans.

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