The military is dealing with a record number of suicides among active-duty forces. According to figures obtained by CBS News, 140 soldiers took their lives in 2008. In the first four months of 2009 that number was 54. That's why the military is putting a special focus on training veterans on how to spot the signs a fellow soldier is considering suicide, and how to find help if they feel troubled themselves. In the first part of KRCG's special report, 'Soldiers at Risk,' we look at the factors that can lead to hopelessness.
Hundreds of Missouri National Guard soldiers returned home in early March after spending a year deployed to Kosovo. For many, reunion with family and friends was familiar-they've been deployed away from home several times before.
"There are some guys I know who are ready to go back to Iraq for their third time," says LTC Gary Gilmore, the State Chaplain for the Missouri National Guard. "We've averaged a state emergency duty every 62 days for about two years."
The transition from war zone to the home front can be difficult. Multiple deployments put soldiers at a higher risk for considering suicide.Another risk factor for suicide is post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Marine Corporal John McClellan of Columbia returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with three purple hearts and a traumatic brain injury. McClellan says he's never been suicidal, but experts say a traumatic brain injury or TBI, increases the risk a veteran will not have the coping skills to deal with the stress of life on the home front.
Clinical Manager at the Truman Veterans' Hospital, Dr. Michael Moore has seen PTSD before.
"When we are in distress, or we have issues in our lives that come up, we all have ways that we cope with those," said Dr. Moore. "For those who have had some sort of TBI some of those ways that they know to cope, or their ability to problem solve or adjust to the changes around them can be impaired. If so, in those cases they can be at increased risk to harm themselves," says Moore.
Another risk factor for suicide is drug and alcohol abuse. That's what veteran Wayne Dyle says lead him to try and slit his wrists.
Tuesday night on KRCG News Nightside at 10:00 learn more about Dyle's story. Our report will also explain efforts at the Truman VA Hospital to help veterans before they harm themselves.