On Wednesday, we began discussing the challenges faced by Army Major Ben Richards as recounted in an August 10, 2012, New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof. Richards sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) following two concussions from car and roadside bombs, and told Kristof that it “would be so much easier if he had just lost a leg in Iraq.”
As Kristof noted, roughly 25 veterans now take their own lives for every soldier killed in war this year. “An astonishing 45 percent of those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries, in many cases psychological ones,” Kristof wrote. “It’s unclear how many are exaggerated or even fraudulent, but what is clear is this: the financial cost of these disabilities will be huge, yet it is dwarfed by the human cost.”
Richards told Kristof that about 90 of the 100 soldiers under him were hit by at least one bomb blast, but “few received significant medical treatment or were pulled out of harm’s way to protect them from a repeat concussion.” Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Leon Panetta has called the “epidemic” of military suicide “one of the most frustrating problems” he has faced as defense secretary, Kristof noted.
“This system is going to be overwhelmed,” Panetta said during a July Congressional hearing (viewable in this video). “Let’s not kid anybody. We’re looking at a system—it’s already overwhelmed.”
Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, told Kristof that the military had made progress in screening and treating TBI and mental health. “We’re light-years more advanced now in terms of how we approach these problems and what we teach troops about getting help,” Woodson told Kristof, noting that, in particular, blast injuries are tracked and treated more rigorously.
However, Woodson also acknowledged that more work still needs to be done. The increase in military suicides is a very serious concern, and we will focus more on suicidal thoughts in TBI victims during the 38th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week that begins on September 9, 2012. TBIs and suicide are certainly not limited to the military, and if you are having suicidal thoughts after sustaining a TBI, we encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website where live counselors are available to chat 24 hours a day.
Additional information about other types of accidents that cause TBI can be found on our website. If you or a loved one has sustained a TBI that was caused by another party, you can fill out the form on this page or contact our firm at (800) 269-3443 to schedule a free consultation with our Indianapolis brain injury lawyers.
Doehrman Chamberlain – Indianapolis brain injury attorneys