Roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For retired Army veteran Adam Magars, that number is too high.
“The year in Iraq definitely stands out. You kind of cross your fingers and hope when it hits, it doesn’t go through your vehicle, hope it misses somehow,” he said.
During the Siege of Sadr City, Magars’ mission was to clear the roadways from IEDs, explosives intended to hurt U.S. soldiers. If, however, a soldier was hit, it was also his job to rescue and treat them.
“You are in it, you’re not leaving until it’s done and that does something to you, it just tears you apart,” he said.
In Iraq, Adam Magars helped clear IEDs and rescue those who were hit.
His first year home, Magars drank heavily - then his panic attacks started to come. He was treated for depression by the VA, mostly with drugs, but he said it did not work.
“Within a few weeks, it didn’t take much of that for me to become suicidal,” he said. “I was just like, I’m screwed.”
New VA report
Researchers at the VA found the risk of suicide for veterans is 21 percent higher when compared to civilian adults. According to the study, from 2001 to 2014, the civilian suicide rate rose 23.3 percent. The rate of suicide for veterans, however, jumped more than 32 percent.
- In 2014, more than 7,400 veterans took their own lives.
- Veteran suicide rates account for 18 percent of all suicides in America.
- Veterans make up less than 9 percent of the U.S. population.
"One is too much. These are heroes, these are people that have given everything for us. I don’t care what number it is. If it is one, we need to do something about it,” said David Strother, a former Marine.
Strother is currently the director of the STAR Program at Research Hospital. The 28-day program provides a range of mental health services for military personnel in Kansas City.
Some of the program’s methods include group outings and art therapy.
Part of the STAR program uses art therapy. Veterans draw hands during the last week of their program.
"I may have someone read a trauma narrative and they are talking about a friend being blown up,” said Strother. “They can’t express it cognitively, they are getting stuck. I’ll come in the next day and they did a mosaic or they have created some level of art that’s signifying the pain.”
Since he’s been back, Magars learned to meditate. He is now the director of programs for a nonprofit he helped found called Warriors' Ascent.
According to Magars, they are help “our nation’s warriors through holistic, evidence-based healing practices.” It focuses on the mind, the body and the soul.
To contact either program:
Warriors’ Ascent: http://www.warriorsascent.org/apply-1/ or call 816-800-9276
STAR Program: http://researchpsychiatriccenter.com/service/star-program or call 816-444-8161
Ariel Rothfield can be reached at Ariel.Rothfield@KSHB.com.