Milky Way

Ceres, PTSD and Suicide

September 2014

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Coping with Increasing Stress in Age of Ceres

Aside from the uncertainty caused by environmental and economic issues, our coping skills are also taxed to their limits by other factors that may be coming more acutely into our collective awareness during the Age of Ceres.

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) has been around forever — under a variety of other names — and was labeled with its current name by the psychiatric profession in 1980; however, since Ceres was promoted to dwarf planet status, awareness of the prevalence of PTSD and its insidious effects has risen. As noted in a 2008 Rand Corporation report, “mounting public concern over post-deployment health care issues,” in the wake of ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, prompted several task forces, independent review groups, and a president’s commission to begin to study the phenomena. According to the Rand report, “Early evidence suggests that the psychological toll of these deployments — many involving prolonged exposure to combat-related stress over multiple rotations — may be disproportionately high compared with the physical injuries of combat" (1).

In addition, recent studies have shown that, like cancer caused by secondhand smoke, PTSD is actually a contagious disease, affecting not only those directly experiencing the trauma, but also anyone who spends time around the victim, especially spouses and children (2). It may even be epigenetic — passed on to babies in the womb through the hormonal responses of pregnant women to a PTSD-stricken partner (3). This is becoming an increasing problem in the Age of Ceres, as veterans return from stressful and prolonged rotations in multiple wars to civilian lives into which they no longer easily fit.

Although prefaced by the disclaimer that PTSD in military personnel might have been caused by events prior to combat, the figures in a more recent report by the Congressional Research Service are telling (4). In 2001, the year Operation Enduring Freedom began in Iraq, the number of reported cases of PTSD among deployed troops was zero, as might be expected given that we were not yet at war. In 2006, the year of Ceres’ change in status, the number had risen to 7,745. The following year, it shot up over 50% to 11,763. In 2012 (through December 3), the year before the study was published, the number of cases of reported PTSD had risen to 14,031 — 80% higher than in the benchmark year of 2006.

PTSD has horrific consequences for those who suffer from it and their families: depression, the inability to hold a job, failed marriages, increased incidents of drug abuse, domestic violence, and suicide. According to the Pentagon, “the military rate of 18.5 suicides per 100,000 service members in 2009 was up from 10.3 suicides per 100,000 in 2002 — an 80 percent increase. A comparable civilian suicide rate rose by about 15 percent in the same period" (5). In 2012, military suicides hit a record high, surpassing combat deaths for the first time in recorded history (6).

Nor is military suicide the only source of concern. In 2009, the suicide rate among the general population surpassed the number of deaths from traffic accidents for the first time in history. Suicide among youth between the ages of 10 and 24 is the third leading cause of death in this population (7). According to a 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 6 high school students has seriously considered suicide, and 1 in 12 has attempted it (8), although the overall percentage of deaths by suicide in this population has actually gradually gone down over time. What is more surprising is that suicide rates among 34–65-year-olds has risen by 28.4% from 1999 to 2010 — with the rate for women rising faster than that for men (9).

References

(1) Terri Tanielian and Lisa H. Jaycox, Eds., “Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery,” Rand Center for Military Health Policy Research, 2008, p. iii.

(2) Mac McClelland, “Hearts and Minds,” Mother Jones, January–February 2013, p. 17.

(3) Kelly Skelton et al., “PTSD and Gene Variants: New Pathways and New Thinking,” www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136568/.

(4) Hannah Fischer, “U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom,” Congressional Research Service, February 5, 2013.

(5) James Dao and Andrew W. Lehren, “In Calculation of Military Rates, the Numbers are Not All Straightforward,” www.nytimes.com/2013/05/16/us/in-calculation-of-military-rates-the-numbers-are-not-all-straightforward.html.

(6) Bill Briggs, “Military suicide rate hit record high in 2012,” http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/14/16510852-military-suicide-rate-hit-record-high-in-2012?lite.

(7) “Suicide Prevention: Youth Suicide,” www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/youth_suicide.html.

(8) Meghan Neal, “1 in 12 teens have attempted suicide: report – CDC finds suicide among high school students on the rise,” www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/1-12-teens-attempted-suicide-report-article-1.1092622.

(9) “Suicide Among Adults Aged 35–64 Years — United States, 1999–2010,” www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6217a1.htm?s_cid=mm6217a1_w#tab1.

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