The suicide rate among veterans who have served since Sept. 11 is alarming.
At least 20 veterans kill themselves every day, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The organization based its figures on a survey conducted with members, 40 percent of whom know a veteran who has committed suicide. Vice reported an even higher number: More than half of Iraq and Afghanistan vets know at least one colleague who has tried or managed to commit suicide.
When soldiers come home from combat, they've seen things that many civilians can't fathom, and find it difficult to continue leading a normal life. Roughly 11 to 20 percent of soldiers who were a part of the forces that served in post-Sept. 11 campaigns have post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the National Center for PTSD, and the number is far higher when factoring in veterans who served in Vietnam and the first Gulf War.
To better understand what soldiers encounter when they fight in battle overseas, as well as the mental health issues they face after returning home, I spoke with Ben Sledge. A former staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, Sledge served 11 years in Afghanistan and Iraq, beginning in 2003. He now works for a non-profit organization called Heart Support, which offers support to millennials coping with depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, and family or sexual abuse.
Sledge gave us insight into soldiers' war experiences that the public never hears about, the complex emotions they have while fighting, how the military handles mental health for vets, and returning home.