The Good Life Research Centre Trust, Rangiora, North Canterbury, New Zealand
War and Suicide. Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2009, 306 pages.
War, for whatever reason, can only mean massive social change. The human casualties of war due to these changes are not restricted to the soldiers who fight the war but the civilians on or near whose soil the war is conducted. The literature appears to associate a war-effect with suicide in various ways e.g. lowered suicide rate during a war but increased suicide using firearms by civilians, increased suicide in the army. However, most western researchers have concentrated on the returning soldiers from Vietnam, the Gulf, Afghanistan or Iraq. The literature suggests that the trauma of war for the soldiers (observing ‘buddies’ being gunned down/blown up and the trauma associated with modern warfare) is the cause of personality changes/depression and therefore the cause of suicide. By the same token, on the one hand not all returnees from active duty commit suicide and on the other such a trauma induced change due to war will also be prevalent in the civilian population; those, whose loved ones have been blown apart in front of them. In the context of suicide and war there are two main issues to consider. The first is understanding suicide, and the second is the provision of a health care service. Social and economic and environmental changes due to a decision to go to war will clearly cause changes at an individual level. As suggested elsewhere, it would be far too simplistic to associate the cause of change with the act of suicide. That is, out of those who are exposed to change, a small proportion will complete suicide, despite receiving medical help. In this chapter, it is argued that in spite of the large body of literature we are no further forward in understanding suicide. Furthermore, since macro-level changes are purely due to governments’ actions it is their responsibility to protect their populations from suicide. But since we have little idea of the dynamics of suicide this responsibility must be focused towards improving the quality of life of those affected by war. It is unreasonable for the Army to promise more of the same suicide prevention programmes time and again given the year on year increase in the suicide rate. Furthermore, it is not sufficient to rely on the over stretched and ill-equipped health services to mop up the aftermath of massive social change due to a policy change or failed policies. Polices that are designed to affect social, political, economic or other changes must have public protection strategies built-in as standard, backed up with a unified database.