You are on page 1of 8

TIME FOR A HERO REPORTS

WHY ARE SOF


SUICIDES
SKYROCKETING?

JULY 2019 / WRITTEN BY DR. PATRICIA ALEXANDER, PH.D., ABPP


OUR COUNTRY’S GREATEST WARRIORS 
ARE KILLING THEMSELVES

IN RECORD
NUMBERS
The Stats The Reality
Veterans with a TBI are 155% more
Between 2000 and Q1 of 2018, there
likely to die from suicide than
were 383,947 diagnosed cases of TBI
those without a TBI. 6
in the military. The actual total is
unknown as many veterans do not
The number of US Special
seek medical care or are
1 Operations Forces (SOF)
misdiagnosed when they do.
committing suicide hit a record
high in 2018. 7
The leading combat-related injury
seen at Walter Reed Military Hospital
The SOF suicide rate tripled in
is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), a
2018, making our country's greatest
hidden wound so prevalent it’s
warriors the military’s most at-risk
known as the signature of modern-
population. 8
day warfare. 2

Between 14-20% of military service


members have Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD). 3

TBI and PTSD are not the same type


of injury. 4

The ineffective TBI/PTSD treatment


protocol offered by the Department
of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) has remained
the same for the past 25 years - talk
therapy, craft projects, and a steady 
supply of opioid painkillers and
psychotropic drugs. 5
The Department of Defense (DOD) and the VA
employ thousands of mental health
professionals and offer hundreds of suicide
education and prevention programs for veterans.
Yet, the number of veteran lives lost to suicide
continues to climb, with the lives of our Special
Operations Forces at greatest risk. 

How can this be, in a group of the most skilled


and resilient people in the world? It’s not for
their lack of motivation.  Members of SOF don’t
seek treatment until they’ve independently done
all they can and all options have failed or a loved
one begs them to get help.  With little hope
remaining, these heroic men and women place
their trust in VA mental health experts to guide
them out of the hell they’ve been living in. They
take the medications, they do the therapy, and
nothing changes.  They blame themselves for
being broken or defective. They remember how
they used to be, able to solve any problem and
function under any circumstance no matter how
extreme. They see no way back to who they once AFTER YEARS OF
were. All the while their injury is only masqued, DESPERATION, THEY
never treated. LOSE HOPE.  AT THAT
POINT SUICIDE BECOMES
Talk to any veteran with combat-related TBI or
A VERY REAL OPTION.
PTSD and they will tell you of the VA's failure to
help them heal. 

The VA uses evidence-based cognitive programs


based on rape and assault victim therapies
developed in the 1980’s. 

These therapies are designed to improve life 


coping skills, speech, and daily functioning,
based on a single incident driven trauma, using 
techniques focused on the workings of the
logical brain.

Combat-related trauma is not the same.  In the


SOF population, trauma in combat is a way of
life.  If these warriors could logically manage
their problems, they would never commit to VA 
treatment. Yet, inappropriate diagnostics and
unsuccessful treatment methods continue to be
the VA's standard of care.
A lengthy VA-administered questionnaire is the
primary screening tool to assess mental health, in
which TBIs to easily be mistaken for PTSD. 
Veterans are quizzed about their traumatic
experiences and current symptoms. The answers
are compiled, "scored", and assigned a diagnosis. 
This limited, subjective approach has led to PTSD
becoming an expedient, go-to diagnosis. It's then
followed by a regimen of drugs to treat mental
illness rather than brain injury.

The VA uses no blood tests designated for TBI or


PTSD. If scans are used, they are limited to CT
and MRI, which only identify obvious structural
damage to the brain. They provide no evaluation
of diminished brain function associated with TBI.
A veteran with multiple head traumas can still
have a "normal" scan. Insufficient testing leads to
misdiagnosis of symptoms as mental health 
issues, instead of injuries to the brain.

VA treatments for PTSD and TBI rely primarily on


pharmaceuticals.  Opioids and psychotropics may ALL THE WHILE, THE
dull the symptoms, but they do not heal the SUICIDE RATE
underlying injury, often only creating more CONTINUES TO RISE.
problems with more symptoms leading to more
prescribed drugs.

There is also a significant amount of “homework”


given to veterans for self-treatment of their
symptoms. In one homework example, veterans
are asked to write about their “worst” trauma
memory then make an audio recording of the
memory and listen to it repeatedly "to lose the
fear surrounding the event."

Given approaches like these, it is not surprising


that the dropout rate for TBI and PTSD treatment
programs is very high and provides minimal, if
any, symptom reduction. 

The DOD and VA attribute failure rates not to the


ineffective programs, but to the veterans. 
Government "experts" blame the veterans and
debate how to more successfully market their
interventions - or better motivate the veterans to
do their homework.
One of the leading theories about why people
choose to take their own lives comes from Dr.
Thomas Joiner, a professor of Psychology at
Florida State University and head of the 
Laboratory for the Study of the Psychology and
Neurobiology of Mood Disorders, Suicide, and
Related Conditions psychologist. 9

Dr. Joiner’s interpersonal-psychological theory of


suicidal behavior proposes that an individual will
not die by suicide unless he has both the desire
to die by suicide and the ability to do so. The
theory’s three main components are:

Sense of Burdensomeness - belief that one’s


existence burdens family, friends, or society.

Low Sense of Belonging   -  belief that one is


alienated from others, not an integral part of a
family, circle of friends, or other valued group. 

Acquired Ability - the acquired ability for


THESE ARE TREATMENTS
lethal self-injury. It is hypothesized that the
capability for suicide is acquired largely THAT THE VA DOESN’T
through repeated exposure to painful or  PROVIDE AND INSURANCE
fearsome experiences. Such experiences are DOESN’T COVER.
the norm for the SOF warrior. 

Our government is failing our heroes. The VA’s


inadequate assessment,  treatment, and lack of
meaningful action to change protocol, even
when better medical alternatives are known to
exist, serves only to reinforce the suicidal
tendencies of a group of Americans who willingly
put their lives on the line to protect and defend
us all. 

Fortunately, there are other options outside of


the VA/DOD. That’s why Time for a Hero exists -
to help our mightiest warriors heal these hidden
wounds of war.
T4H PROTOCOL

The T4H Protocol begins with a series of


evaluations developed for SOF veterans, including
specialized blood panels, advanced SPECT
scanning, and neuropsychological testing to
determine the type of brain injur(ies) sustained. If
they are suffering from chronic pain, heavy metal
or chemical toxicity, or other injuries within Time
for a Hero's means to treat, then those injuries are
also included in the testing and evaluation.  

Because a single blast concussion can cause


massive disruption to blood flow and metabolism
in multiple areas of the brain without causing
structural damage, the T4H protocol includes
comprehensive SPECT imaging to develop the
overall picture of current brain health.  SPECT
scans are evaluated for blood flow patterns TIME FOR A HERO
indicating areas of TBI, PTSD, or toxic exposure, PROVIDES ALL PLANNING,
all of which require different forms of treatment, ALL SERVICES, ALL TRAVEL,
tailored to the individual. ALL TREATMENTS, AT NO
COST TO THE VETERAN.
The data provided by SPECT can also quantify the
degree to which each problem is contributing to
overall symptoms, as well as the specific areas of
the brain involved. Symptoms are identified and
explained by actually looking at pictures of the
brain. The hidden injury is made visible. Feelings
of helplessness, or being defective and broken,
vanish. Hope returns.

The next step in the T4H Protocol is the


development of a personalized recovery plan.
Recovery planning includes the use of advanced
regenerative treatments including cell therapy,
hyperbaric oxygen dives, chelation, sensory
development sessions, customized  nutrition and
supplementation, eye movement desensitization
and reprocessing therapy, and non-drug pain
management.
T4H PROTOCOL

Veterans who’ve gone through the T4H


Protocol find freedom from opioid
dependency; the end of never-ending
headaches; return to a good night’s sleep;
improved hearing, smell, sight, taste,    
balance, and recall; mental clarity that’s better
than ever; the restoration of relationships; and
the return of hope for the future.

We will not stand idly by, watching the


government continue to fail our heroes. We
TIME FOR A HERO
cannot condone the continued waste of millions
of dollars thrown at marginal evaluations and RESTORES HOPE.
routine overmedication. It is loss of hope that
leads to suicide. Time for a Hero restores hope.

If you are a SOF veteran with combat-related TBI


or PTSD, Time for a Hero is here for you. You can
reach us anytime at support@timeforahero.org or
by calling 619.762.7668 

If you know of a SOF veteran who’s suffering,


please share this information with them. 

To help Time for a Hero continue to provide


regenerative medical treatments to the SOF   
community, please visit timeforahero.org for more
information.

Dr. Patricia Alexander, Ph.D., ABPP is a veteran and former


Clinical Director of Mental Health Services for the
Department of Veterans Affairs’ Mental Health Clinic in
Golden, Colorado.

Dr. Alexander now serves as a


Director with Time for a Hero.
OUR EVENTS
ENDNOTES:

1. Vanderploeg, Rodney D. et al.  Rehabilitation of Traumatic Brain Injury in Active Duty


Military Personnel and Veterans: Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center Randomized
Controlled Trial of Two Rehabilitation Approaches. Archives of Physical Medicine and
Rehabilitation, Volume 89, Issue 12, 2227 - 2238. Oct. 2016.

2. Center for Deployment Psychology https://deploymentpsych.org

3. Tanielian, Terri and Lisa H. Jaycox, eds., Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and
Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery. RAND
Corporation. 2008. https://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG720.html

4. Traumatic Brain Injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Pain Diagnoses in


OIF/OEF/OND Veterans.  Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development.  Volume 50,
Number 9, 2013.  https://www.rehab.research.va.gov/jour/2013/509/pdf/jrrd-2013-01-
0006.pdf

5. Miriam Reisman. PTSD Treatment for Veterans: What’s Working, What’s New, and What’s
Next. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Oct. 2016. 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5047000/

6. Lindquist LK, Love HC, Elbogen EB. Traumatic Brain Injury in Iraq and Afghanistan
Veterans: New Results From a National Random Sample Study. Journal of Neuropsychiatry
and Clinical Neuroscience. Jan 2017.

7. Charile Campbell. U.S. Special Ops Are Soldiers Committing Suicide in Record
Numbers. Time Magazine. April 2014.
https://time.com/67748/us-military-seals-rangers-suicide/

8. Barbara Starr. US Special Ops Suicides Triple in 2018, as Military Confronts the Issue.
CNN. Feb 2019
https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/02/politics/socom-military-suicide...2018/index.html

9. Joiner, Thomas.  Why People Die by Suicide. Harvard University Press. Sept. 2007.