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Goodbye, Anti-Sacred and Profane Writing Machine

Jun 25 2009 | Comments 2

After a long battle with cancer, PW staff writer, Guardian columnist, punk-rock novelist, NME gadfly, gender-twisting rebel comedian and poet Steven Wells has gone on to other things. Well, not really. According to Steven, there’s no such thing as the afterlife, and if there is, I guarantee he’s really, really pissed off right now. I can just picture him at St. Peter’s Gates, saying, “Fuck me! This shit actually exists?”

We’ll all miss Steven so much, and I’ll say more about that later. For now, I’m wishing the best to all family and friends who are hurting. That’s what Steven really cared about in the end, though he was very passionately annoyed by knitting, as well.

Steven was often told he was anti-American. I loved his passion, and he cracked us the fuck up every day. This video was part of a series he did for PW called Steven Wells’ America, in which he took sacred cows and basically grilled them for dinner. Below, he reflects on the religiosity of an America that voted for Bush a second time (Steven was a staunch atheist). Toward the end he smiles a bit, so you know that he knows he’s being ridiculous. And that’s part of what was so cute about Steven — he’d rant, but then laugh at himself.

liz | 10:41 AM | BIG PHARMA, Funny or Offensive?, GLBT, Song of the Day, alternative treatments, anxiety, celebrities, children, cute fix, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, media, meds, military, philadelphia, phobias, politics, random, religion, suicide, violence

It’s Official: Our Soldiers Need Help

Jan 30 2009 | Comment 1

Yesterday I wrote about suicides being on the rise in the military, but that was before the official numbers came in. Now they’re in, and as projected, the news is devastating:

Army Suicides In 2008 Hit Highest Level Ever Recorded [Hartford Courant]

Army suicides at record high, passing civilians [Associated Press]

Here’s an excerpt from the AP article:

At least 128 soldiers committed suicide in 2008, the Army said Thursday. And the final count is likely to be even higher because 15 more suspicious deaths are still being investigated.

“Why do the numbers keep going up? We cannot tell you,” said Army Secretary Pete Geren. “We can tell you that across the Army we’re committed to doing everything we can to address the problem.”

It’s all about pressure and the military approach, said Kim Ruocco, 45, whose Marine husband was an officer and Cobra helicopter pilot who hanged himself in a California hotel room in 2005. That was one month before he was to return to Iraq a second time.

She said her husband, John, had completed 75 missions in Iraq and was struggling with anxiety and depression but felt he’d be letting others down if he sought help and couldn’t return.

“He could be any Marine because he was highly decorated, stable, the guy everyone went to for help,” Ruocco said in a telephone interview. “But the thing is … the culture of the military is to be strong no matter what and not show any weakness.”

It is encouraging to know, however, that the Army plans to take action. From the Hartford Courant:

The first efforts will take place from mid-February to mid-March, when commanders throughout the Army conduct a two- to four-hour “stand down” at which every soldier will be trained to recognize a troubled colleague and effectively intervene.

Army officials said they would also continue efforts to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health care, and would work to ease the transition for soldiers returning from war zones. Col. Elspeth Ritchie, the Army’s top psychiatrist, also made an explicit plea for mental health workers to join the military. The Army has tried for more than a year to hire 300 new psychiatrists and psychologists and is still looking to fill about 50 positions.

“Anybody out there who’s interested: We are hiring and we need your help,” Ritchie said.

In a bad economy, it’s nice to know there’s someone hiring.

liz | 11:08 AM | military

Took a Day Off, But I’m Back and Pissed Off

Jan 29 2009 | Comments 7

The suicide rate among U.S. Army soldiers is at a three-decade high. It could be an all-time high, but stats have only been kept since 1980. The majority of the men and women don’t commit suicide while deployed, but after they come home. A spokesman quoted on NPR said the suicides were primarily the result of failed relationships post-deployment. I’ve never heard anything more ridiculous and ill-informed. By saying something so utterly banal and simplistic, it shields the public from stories of neglect by the V.A. There is an abhorrent inability to appropriately address PTSD in returning soldiers, whether their relationships — if they have them — remain intact or no.

Each suicide has its own contours. From

Suicides for Marines were also up in 2008 …

The numbers did not surprise Kevin Lucey, whose 23-year-old son, Jeffrey M. Lucey — a former Marine — hanged himself on June 22, 2004 — 11 months after returning from Iraq.

The night before, “Jeffrey asked if he could sit in my lap and if we could rock,” Lucey said. “It was about 11:30 at night. And I rocked him for about 45 minutes. Now here you have a 23-year-old, 150-pound Marine that I’m just rocking and his therapist said it was his last gasp. It was his last place for refuge, and then the next time I held him in my lap was when I was taking him down from the rafters. He had put the hose around his neck double-looped and he was dead.”

Lucey maintains his son tried to get help from the VA, but was unable to.

More on the subject from MSNBC:

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liz | 11:17 AM | military