If We Want to Address the Crisis of Veteran Suicide, We Must Acknowledge Its HistoryRoundup
tags: Germany, United States, United Kingdom, veteran suicide
Simon Harold Walker is a suicidologist and medical historian associate researcher at the University of Strathclyde and author of the forthcoming book Physical Control, Transformation and Damage in the First World War: War Bodies
Military suicides both within and outside service date back to the formation of military groups. However, as a look at U.S. and U.K. responses to the problem shows, attention has only really begun to increase over the last century.
When the British Ministry of Defence in June of this year unveiled plans to increase spending on the care and support of British veterans, the measure came over a century too late to save the life of Private Walter Were Joyce in 1914, whose suicide note confirmed that he had taken his own life after being returned home unwell and feeling he had lost his societal purpose. The note read, “As I am unable to march, I am no good as a soldier.
In the years surrounding World War I, governments on both sides of the Atlantic were unsure how to deal with the issue of military suicide and the accompanying association between war trauma and mental illness. In the U.S., veteran suicide quickly became apparent as a postwar problem, at least for those inclined to recognize it. As a result of his work with returning veterans, American psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Salmon claimed that over 400 American veterans had died by suicide in New York State alone as a result of psychiatric trauma of the First World War.
Yet official action was minimal.
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