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Documentary Looks at Military Suicides

'The Hidden Enemy' Explores Psychiatric Meds

Stacy M. Brown | 5/21/2014, 3 p.m.
The military's most pressing question remains as to why it cannot defeat its most insidious enemy: suicide.
Courtesy photo

The conquests of the United States military remain awe-inspiring.

From the Colonial wars of the 1600s and 1700s, to the Theater of Wars in the 1900s to the War on Terrorism that began in 2001, America’s soldiers have toppled the opposition.

Still, the most pressing question remains as to why the military cannot defeat its most insidious enemy: suicide.

“Suicide is now the leading cause of injury death in the United States and, among young adults, it ranks as the second or third leading cause of death,” said Silvia M. Dutchevici, president and founder of the Critical Therapy Center in New York and a member of the National Association of Social Workers in Northeast Washington, D.C.

“We know that young veterans in particular are at a higher risk of suicide, about three times the rate of active duty troops, and several factors contribute to this,” Dutchevici said.

“First, most of them have severe personal issues and they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Second, most do not receive appropriate care, and when they do seek out help, the military is much more comfortable to medicate than to treat them. Finally, when these young men and women return from war, they have little social support and no real economic prospects and deep scars.”

Creators of a new documentary note that returning soldiers also arrive home with questions like why do 22 veterans commit suicide everyday? Why 85 percent of military suicide victims never experience combat and what do the Fort Hood and Navy Yard shootings have in common?

A special screening of the documentary, titled, “The Hidden Enemy,” attracted a crowd on May 6 at the Cannon House Office Building in Southeast.

The documentary, which features interviews with more than 80 soldiers and experts, tackles what filmmakers call the unsuspected factor that’s causing military suicide rates to soar, the sudden death of veterans in their sleep and unexplained mass violence that include the Navy Yard shootings in 2013 where a lone gunman fatally shot 12 individuals and injured three others.

“What the Navy Yard shooter and the Fort Hood shooter have in common is overexposure to violent video games and other violent media, which makes a person become violent themselves,” said famed television news psychiatrist Carole Lieberman.

“Shooters direct their rage toward others, while suicide victims direct it at themselves. Shooters and suicide victims overcome their feelings of helplessness to make one final grand gesture, fueled by the storylines they’ve played over and over in violent video games,” Lieberman said.

The documentary, released by the mental health watchdog group, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), revealed that there’s increased mental health diagnosis, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in soldiers and a higher rate of psychiatric drugging.

Producers of the film said military suicide rates among active duty soldiers and veterans also have soared to record numbers and the documentary counts as the first to expose psychiatry’s role in the devastating effects upon the armed forces.

“We have never drugged our troops to this extent and the current increases in suicides is not a coincidence,” said Ret. Lt. Col. Bart Billings, who noted that military psychiatrists have used emotionally and psychologically wounded soldiers to experiment with treatments like electroshock, insulin shock and mind-altering drugs.