By On January 15th, 2014

Dr. R.M. Jayatunge – Death of a Soldier


Ruwan Jayatunge, M.D.

“Death of a Soldier” is the latest contribution to the Brookhaven blog community from Dr. Ruwan M. Jayatunge.  From his research of combat trauma veteran’s across the world, Dr. Jaytunge utilizes the suicide of a Canadian Armed Forces Officer to share his perspectives on the relationship of combat related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to suicide. He then outlines his research regarding the nature of combat related triggers of PTSD and suicides spanning from the Civil War to the current war efforts. Along the way, he includes insight on the traditional view from military leaders toward suicide, along with correlations between combat trauma and suicide.  Dr. Jaytunge finishes with a simplified outline to suicide assessment and prevention.

The points Dr. Jayatunge raises in “Death of Soldier” regarding the history of the views of military leadership toward suicide motivated me to apply some of the data trends we have been provided regarding the handling of mental health in the military in the Post 9/11 era.  In a recent article in Military Times, it was reported that since 2001, there have been 31,000 discharges for personality and adjustment disorders.  National Public Radio’s (NPR) Morning Edition on December 9th, 2013, reported that over 100,000 troops were discharged under “Less Than Honorable” conditions.  It was reported that many of those discharged under these conditions are current war veterans whose conduct issues are rooted in combat related PTSD and/or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). Under a Federal Law written in 1944, the Veterans Administration (VA) has refused treatment to soldiers discharged under these conditions. In most of these situations the discharge process starts with the opinion and signature of a non-medically trained front-line officer.

Dr. Jayatunge’s viewpoints regarding prevention measures with military organizations show a connection between combat trauma and suicide. What’s disconcerting is that, based on the Military Times and NPR reports, there are potentially 131,000 individuals at risk. The process of recording US Military suicides in most studies acknowledge records of veterans on active duty or utilizing VA services which would not include the deaths of these 131,000 very high potential at risk for suicide veterans. Dr. Jayatunge’s analysis coupled with these recent reports present strong evidence for the need for process and measurement changes in regard to suicide among military veterans.  How many lives have not been accounted for in regard to combat trauma related suicide since World War II?  Even more, how many lives could have been saved since?

Click here to read Dr. Jayatunge’s article, “Death of a Soldier.”

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