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Survivor Guilt Related to PTSD

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There are all kinds of trauma for veterans.... even for those who didn't serve in a combat zone

With the latest information in the news stating that more veterans have committed suicide than have died in Afghanistan this year, it raises some interesting questions/thoughts.  According to the June 8, 2012, article on page A4 of The Spokesman-Review, “154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan—by about 50 percent more—according to Pentagon statistics obtained by the Associated Press.” And further in the article, “Army data suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of committing suicide, although a substantial proportion of Army suicides are committed by soldiers who never deployed.”

I suggest that perhaps the military needs to look at the effect that Survivor Guilt for non-deployed members of the military has on them, as it relates to this apparent upswing in suicides in the military. For instance, hypothetically, a male or female member of the military trains with the same personnel through Basic Training and then on through Advanced Individual Training. When it comes time for deployment to a “combat zone,” one or more of the group is not sent into a “combat zone,” and as a matter of fact, is not deployed outside of the U.S. (CONUS). The individual(s) then receives reports from the “combat zone” that a number of his/her close friends/comrades have been killed and/or have lost limbs, while he/she is safely out of harm’s way. Sure, he/she could have been deployed, but they weren’t. Now, after hearing the aforementioned report, he/she begins to feel guilty; guilty that they not only survived, but didn’t even have to go anywhere near a war zone. This “Survivor Guilt” intensifies to the point where the non combat veteran believes that if he/she had been with their buddies, perhaps they could have prevented some or all of the deaths of their friends.

As time goes by, this feeling of, ‘If only I’d been there with them, maybe this wouldn’t have happened to them,” intensifies and manifests itself into something like an obsession. Eventually the veteran suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as related to “Survivor Guilt,” even though they weren’t physically there with their buddies in combat.

Question to be pondered:  What responsibility does the Veterans Administration have towards these non combat, non deployed veterans as relates to psychiatric care and counseling due to their “Survivor Guilt?”

I submit that the above is an area that the VA and military need to look into immediately to see how it does or doesn’t relate to these increased suicide rates, especially in non deployed veterans.

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Author info

Michael Harmelin

Tagged as:

veterans, PTSD, survivor guilt

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