Mission 22 is a charity whose mission is to diminish veteran suicide. We’ve partnered with them to provide mental training to help them achieve their mission. Magnus Johnson, one of their founders, wrote an article, Canary in the Coal Mine, that gives helpful insight into what veteran mental health means for all of us. We’re all in a coal mine, confined together in our society. Veterans’ experiences with trauma, depression, and suicide tell us a lot about how our own lives are impacted. Veteran issues are the canary that informs us of dangers ahead for all of us. We should heed veteran issues, help them heal, so we all can heal. 

Magnus begins… “Because of the added stress of military service, veterans were the first to begin to take their lives by suicide at an alarming rate in America. In 2012, twenty-two veterans succumbed to suicide daily (Kemp & Bossarte, 2012). Currently, healthcare providers are well aware of the rising suicide trends in college students, veterinarians, and Caucasian men (Centers for Disease Control, 2020; David, 2019; Tomasi et al., 2019). Why is suicide a growing cause of death in many demographics in America? 

“Suicide can be a choice of those who have not integrated spiritual meaning in their physical lives fully. Integration of purpose must be achieved internally and derive in part from our communities. We are not separate, and we are not purely logical mental constructions. We are shared heartbeats, co-creators in the drama of consciousness. When one of us places our sanity and health on the sacrificial altar and is not honored or acknowledged, our individual and shared life force dwindles…

“Civilians are beginning to succumb to the despair of existence without collective meaning and value. The cure for this lies not exclusively with academics, therapists, or experts. The treatment for the ailment is a conscious effort to ascribe, create, and engage in our meaning, symbolically, emotionally, and physically. The mother of children is a bringer of life. The elderly are our dispensers of wisdom. Our students are our hope. Our warriors are our heart.”

Magnus leaves us with a warning and a call to action: 

“My warning: Modern veterans are the canary in the coal mine; the rest of us should notice these alarming suicide rates and abandon the environment we are excavating and supporting. We are going too far in the wrong direction.

“We cannot forget that we are in this together. As a nation, we have separated ourselves from the modern warrior, our elderly, and our children. Our focus is on the superficial and the empty. If we wish to preserve life, then we must honor meaning and purpose individually and collectively.”

Read the full article on LinkedIn.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Greg Leach

    Thank you sharing Arno. Stay mindful. Travel well.

  2. David Kessler

    Suicide is of course troubling. 160 suicides per day for all Americans is not much different than 22 per day cited for veterans in 2011. Its 17 per day now for veterans. So it most older Americans from Vietnam and other earlier wars and not the recent mid east wars as implicated in many news articles. Just for clarity.
    David kessler

    1. Arno

      Hi David, I don’t know the statistics myself. Are you saying the the suicide rate is the same for vets and general public? Regardless, I’m curious about your thoughts on Mangus’ theme in the article, about veterans being the “canary in the coal mine.” Thoughts? a

  3. Brant Herrett

    I am reminded of Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe. From the intro: “Humans don’t mind hardship. in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary”. Combat vets go through things that we in the U.S. cannot even imagine (even though we pretend we can). The vet is expected to come out of a war zone, back to the ‘normal society’ and act like nothing happened. And those who have not lived that experience can’t understand those that have. Vets can have severe mental health issues even if they don’t commit suicide. If you’ve ever had a flashback, you know what I’m talking about. The warrior needs a mission and if they don’t have that, they are lost.
    In tribal cultures, youth has initiation rituals to bring them into adulthood and the entire tribe/clan participates. This way the young have a way to know their place in society and they are valued. We don’t do that here at all. The ridiculous myth of the ‘rugged individualist’ that carries through this country is killing people (if not physically, then emotionally). None of us exist in a vacuum. We have little community to help us and to hold us in times of trouble. I know this first hand. Most of my family died in my teens, my mother being killed when I was 16 and I had to find my own way to keep going.

    1. Arno

      So true Brant. The books that Edward Tick and Jonathan Shay write bring all your points to light. WW is working to do what we can for veterans and others. We’re excited to bring awareness of what you point out to the general public that vets protect. a

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