Monday, February 04, 2008

High Rate of Soldier Suicide

The number of American soldiers who try to commit suicide is at an all time high, according to an independent study. And one Colorado Springs man says he may know why. Richard "Singe" Stites says his son, who was in the Army, took his own life seven years ago.

Private Nolan Edward Stites began his military career at Fort Carson. He began his training while he was still in high school.

Private Nolan was then transferred to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. It was there that he killed himself. He was just two days shy of his 19Th birthday.

According to Private Nolan's father, Nolan was not a sad kid.

His father called him a perfectionist. "He loved the outdoors. He was an expert marksman with all types of firearms and he was a good student", said Richard Stites.

Private Nolan also loved his country and knew at a ripe age he wanted to join the Army. But when he finally did, his dad says, his life crumbled beneath him.

"He lost his appetite and had trouble sleeping", said Richard Stites.

Private Nolan was depressed and told his dad he felt like killing himself. So Richard Stites ordered his son to seek help.

"The two main things that happen to people when they die from suicide is a feeling of not belonging and of being a burden", said Richard Stites.

The Army, Richard Stites believes, did not treat his son with compassion nor get him appropriate help. "I feel I never got the truth", said Richard Stites.

Richard Stites said he was told by his son's peers that their drill sergeant made Private Nolan feel foolish for being depressed. "Whatever was wrong with him, the treatment he received for 15 days, having my son running around in front of his peers with out his belt and boot laces, being made fun of, exacerbated the problem tremendously", said Richard Stites.

Richard Stites says there are probably hundreds of reasons why men and women in the military take their lives. But one of them he believes is because they're too embarrassed to come forward. "There's that stigma. They're afraid to get help", said Richard Stites.

Second, he believes soldiers being deployed time after time is simply unhealthy.

Last year, more than 2,000 soldiers tried to end their lives. Compare that to 2001, when nearly 500 soldiers attempted suicide.

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