IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – New government research showed that female military veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of other women. It is a startling find that brings up questions about the backgrounds and experiences of women who have served in the armed forces.
Their suicide rate is so high that it approaches that of male veterans, a finding that surprised researchers, because men, generally, are far more likely than women to commit suicide.
Thousands of female veterans are struggling to get health-care treatment and compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs on the grounds that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by sexual trauma in the military.
Danielle Thompson joined the Army back in 2006. Her father served in the Army for 23 years, and she wanted to continue the family tradition of serving in the armed forces and supporting her son. Thompson, who had given birth to her son only 10 months prior, enrolled in the Army.
Thompson was trained in early warning detection systems but spent most of her career in administration. She spent time in Kuwait at Camp Arifijan, managing the orderly room and managing soldiers during Operation Enduring Freedom. Thompson volunteered to be deployed to Iraq but couldn’t go, because she was pregnant with her second child at the time.
She served four years in the Army and was medically discharged. She’s been out of the military for six years. However, it hasn’t been an easy transition into civilian life for Thompson.
She suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. Thompson didn’t want to go into detail about what exactly triggered her PTSD or happened to her while she served in the Army, but she does allude to sexual harassment and sexual assault that contributed to her PTSD.
Keep in touch. Subscribe to Ameriforce’s FREE digital editions. Focus topics include: Military News Spouses Deployment Finance Relocation Veterans Health & Benefits. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest
“Whether it’s sexual assault or sexual harassment, from my experience, it’s typically turned around on the females,” Thompson said.
She said,”When victims go to talk about their story, they are put through the wringer and re-victimized. That’s why women don’t tell their story.”
It’s been a long painful road to recovery for her. She said a local group in Idaho Falls that meets once a week, called Phoenix Quick Response Force, a group of veterans, both female and male, have helped her cope with her emotional trauma.
She said when she came home, her kids didn’t even know her. “I was hard, it wasn’t easy. My daughter was six months old when I left her to deploy. When I came back, neither of my kids knew who I was.”
“The big thing is when you go through the stuff I went through, your relationships suffer. I got divorced. I couldn’t hold a relationship. It’s been hard,” Thompson said.
She said she’s battled depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. “There are times where it was just so hard to go on,” she said. “But I’ve done for my kids. They need me.”
Thompson believes there are plenty of resources out there that are funded by the government. She said the resources aren’t always easy to access or understand.
Thompson said there isn’t enough attention or specialized groups to help female veterans, especially when it comes to mental health. “A lot of females don’t want to come forward about their wartime trauma or harassment or sexual assault,” Thompson said. “That stems from not feeling safe when they were in the military, so it’s just a wall that they build up. They don’t want to talk about it.”
She said if the resources change, then maybe victims or people who suffer from mental illness may utilize them better.
The Female Veteran Suicide Act was signed by the president on June 30, 2016. The bipartisan legislation, introduced by U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst, Barbara Boxer, Richard Blumenthal, and Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify the most effective programs and approaches in reducing suicide rates among female veterans.
By Esmi Careaga, LocalNews8.com