Fighting the Intangible

by Ename1 on February 17, 2014 - 10:05pm

Mark Thompson and Nancy Gibbs write about one of the biggest issues for the United States military which has emerged since fighting two simultaneous wars overseas – suicide.  With it becoming such a concern, the Army, specifically, has invested billions of dollars into suicide prevention and awareness programs, yet admits that the effectiveness of said programs is impossible to determine.  The article discusses two main cases about two Army officers, both with successful careers and seemingly happy lives earlier on, however, something changes that and they both end up taking their own lives. Military suicide rates spiked upwards of 80% from 2004 to 2008, and another 18% in 2012. The question rises as to how this suicide epidemic can be stopped, seeing how military suicides account for 20% of all suicides in the United States.  For as long as it remains a problem, the costs (emotional, financial, etc.) will be just as problematic, and the end seems to not be in sight any time soon (Thompson & Gibbs, 2012).

            The question behind the article is quite clear.  Why are suicides more prevalent in the military and for veterans, and how are we supposed to curtail them?  It ties directly into the purpose of getting people, both military and civilian, to start thinking about it more and develop possible solutions.  However, the article makes it seem that all veterans that commit suicide are mentally healthy to begin with, before all of the training and possible deployments, which is not entirely true.  Also, it assumes once again that the problem does not start with the family, but rather that the family problems start because of the Army.  These assumptions lump all soldiers and their families into one general category, where they all are ignored and neglected by the Army, thus causing serious issues at home, ultimately leading to their suicides, which cannot and should not be said at all.


Thompson, M., Gibbs, N. (2012, July 23). The War on Suicide. Time, 180, 22-31


There is no doubt that this issue remains as critical today as when the article first appeared. I grew up reading Time magazine and find they are very good at providing valuable statistics on many social problems, but I have always questioned how well they explain the social problems they identify and describe. You note a fundamental error in reasoning, the assumption that individuals that have the same outcome also have the same cause. I wonder if there is a way to consider the aspects of military service that increase one's risk of suicide or vulnerability to suicide.

A slight note of caution on describing suicide statistics, the rate increased by 80%. Your version sounds like 80% of those serving in 2008 committed suicide. I wonder if any other group within or outside the US has seen such a dramatic increase in suicide rates.

It seems like you resumed this article very well and it sounds very complete to me for a summary of the subject. I like how you underline the questions the article may causes. I found an article that talk about suicide in the military but in Canada: You may found interesting that we share similar problems but also different ones. This article particularly focus on the lack of medical for soldiers and their family.

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