suicide

When He Came Home

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By Matthew Nojiri

News21 / Syracuse University

The Marine’s family and friends come to this cemetery just outside of town to think about the kid who loved to wrestle, who spent holidays fishing with his father, who had a smile people still remember.

Someone has placed a toy motorbike on his gravestone. As a teenager, the Marine used to race up these Northeastern Washington trails and dart between trees in a town covered with more forest trails than streets.

Military Suicide

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An excerpt from "When He Came Home" by Matthew Nojiri.

“We can’t let our veterans fall through the cracks,” says Matt Kuntz, executive director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Montana. Kuntz has lead a national initiative for more thorough mental-health screening for returning soldiers and veterans after his stepbrother, an Iraq veteran, committed suicide in 2007. “We owe it to them to make sure they get the care they need when they come back.”

Interviews and trauma

We've been talking with veterans and advocates who point out that interviewing veterans with PTSD and other people with trauma can be a unique situation. A traumatized person may talk about emotionally painful things voluntarily. But for some, it can unleash intense feelings, which the traumatized person then has to figure out how to cope with.

A few tips we learned:

Be clear about your role. You're not a counselor. Let them know what to expect from you as a journalist, what that involves (one interview, phone contact, etc.).

Self-inflicted: military suicides

Matt and I are researching mental health and veterans, including what can be done for returning veterans to help them adjust to civilian life and overcome trauma connected to their service.

A recent USA Today article highlighted the steady number of marines committing and attempting suicide.The article says that 80 active duty marines have committed suicide from January to May 2010, despite a training program meant to educate about this risk.

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