It’s Time to Stop Veteran Suicide, When Is Enough…Enough?
It’s Time to Stop Veteran Suicide Once and for All
Another Veteran Commits Suicide At The Phoenix VA
By Mikel Weisser
Friday morning the Phoenix Veterans Administration lost another patient. Another veteran suicide, another self-inflicted gunshot, right there on the grounds of the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center. It is the second time in the past two years this kind of thing has happened in Phoenix. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Twenty-two vets commit suicide every single day in America. Every single day. That adds up to eight thousand dead American veterans every year. In the past ten years, more US veterans have committed suicide than the total number of American soldiers who died in all the wars the US has fought in the past 50 years. Including Vietnam.
States like Arizona have it the worst. The rural West sees the nation’s highest rates of vet suicide. The national average shows 38 vets will commit suicide out of every 100,000. Montana sees nearly double that number with 68.3 vets out of every 100,000. Here in AZ the number is 53.6. That means this year fifty-four Arizonans will kill themselves out of every 100,000 Arizona vets. In 2014 the carnage added up to 259 vet suicides in the state, and the problem has just gotten worse. Time out of service is no safety net either. These days the majority of veteran suicides, 65%, were 50 or older. Women aren’t immune. In fact women veterans are two and a half times more likely to attempt suicide than civilian women.
Veterans who seek help through the VA are prohibited from trying cannabis for relief and typically put on a regimen of pharmaceuticals that leaves them feeling like zombies. Often vets end up on as many as eight medications, some to treat the symptoms of initial PTSD, some to treat the symptoms of the medication itself. Due to the pills, vets complain their dark moods get worse, they lose energy and memory and suffer additional health problems from the side effects of the pills they are forced to take. As Jose Belin, our feature speaker at this year’s Phoenix expo explained, the VA prescriptions he was given only made matters worse and leave him feeling like he had nowhere to turn for hope. “I was at the mercy of the VA. Again, and again, I was given medications that made me want to kill myself.” This has got to stop.
Here in Arizona Dr. Sue Sisley has made heroic efforts to try and study the effects of cannabis therapy on combat-related PTSD. So far, her project has met delays and obstacles, including having her recruitment efforts blocked by the VA itself. Still Sisley’s research is America’s first legitimate attempt to help treat our veterans with something more effective than the chemical lobotomies handed out by the bottle by our local VA.
Now even the famously conservative American Legion has taken up the cause and calling on Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to support vets who use cannabis as part of their state medical marijuana programs. Currently if vets are found to have cannabis in their system, they can lose their VA services entirely. VA staff is not even allowed to discuss cannabis with their patients. Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer has introduced legislation, HR1820, The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which would remove the “VA gag rule” and let doctors treat our veterans with the dignity and respect they have earned. Rep Blumenauer has 18 bipartisan co-sponsors on his bill including Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego (AZ07-D), who is a veteran himself. But we must do more.
Since the beginning, SWCC has honored our vets for their service. We kicked off our very first expo with a veterans’ march. Each conference includes a veterans’ rally and vets on the podium and in the speaker panels. We highlight veterans’ issues at our other events and in our newsletters as well. We have you reading about the problem right now. And since you are, here are two steps you can take to make vet suicides a thing of the past.
NORML has an action alert to press our legislators to support the Veterans Equal Access Amendment. Contact your representative and senators today. Next, Dr. Sisley is still enrolling new vets to participate in her study. Learn more about Dr. Sisley and learn how you can help a vet get the treatment they might need by clicking here or calling (623) 587-5660.
As always, SWCC and CannabisRadio.com thanks our servicemen and women for their sacrifice and patriotism and pledges our support for all those working to end veteran suicide. Let’s make Friday’s vet suicide in Phoenix the beginning of the end of this shameful epidemic.