Recently I read about and researched the suicide of Daniel Sommers, an Iraq war veteran who was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Gulf War Syndrome, fibromyalgia, and other medical conditions after his service in the armed forces in 2007.
Last month he committed suicide and his suicide letter was posted across the internet by his family, hoping to draw attention to the poor treatment of veterans by the United States Office of Veteran Affairs (VA).
While Daniel Sommers sought treatment through a variety of modalities including music, medication, and traditional therapy, nothing was enough to alleviate the physical and mental pain he felt and ultimately he took his own life.
Before I even started researching for this post, I was already researching the increase in young veterans committing suicide and was preparing to write a post about that, but when I read Daniel Sommers suicide letter, I felt like it gave a chilling insight into the mind of someone struggling with PTSD and depression.
“My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure,” Daniel wrote in his final letter. Those words echo so much of what I hear when I have worked with people suffering from diseases such as fibromyalgia, lupus and even undiagnosed problems that they are told are all in their head.
“All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety.”
It’s not often that we get to see the last words and thoughts of someone who feels like the only solution is suicide. Being able to read Daniel’s words and analyze them, not only gives us great insight into the way he was thinking, but it can potentially help us help others who are thinking about ending their lives.
I have a book called Psychotherapy with Suicidal People and it is filled with suicide letters from people who ended their lives, including some famous individuals. At some points it was one of the most depressing books I have ever read, but the amount of insight these letters give to us trying to help others is invaluable.
While the military and other non-profit support groups have many resources aimed at helping veterans with PTSD, Daniel Sommers family feels like the military failed their son and is failing others who have and are currently serving our country.
In February, the VA released findings from a study that said that 22 veterans commit suicide everyday and that 325 committed suicide last year. Those numbers are astonishing. If we were losing 22 children to shootings everyday, something drastic would be done.
Those numbers tell me that things could be better when it comes to the way we deal with and treat veterans dealing with PTSD and depression and some changes are coming.
In August, President Obama signed an order to increase veterans access to mental health services and the VA hired 1,600 mental health professionals while also adding more telephone and online help for veterans. Help for veterans is better than it’s ever been, but it’s far from perfect and too many people like Daniel Sommers are falling through the cracks.
As much pain as Daniel Sommers was going through, suicide is never the answer and the bad thing about his suicide letter going viral is that others suffering from depression and mental anguish may see this as verification that suicide brings about peace, but suicide is a permanent solution to what are usually temporary problems.
If you would like to read Daniel Sommers suicide letter just click on the link. I didn’t want to post it because it could serve as a trigger for those already suffering with suicidal ideations. This is definitely a tragedy, but just think, there are 22 tragedies like this occurring everyday with just our veterans alone, not to mention our civilian population where the Center for Disease Control estimates 105 people commit suicide everyday.