Montana is a state that clearly shows the stress of combat.
It’s a patriotic place, where many sons tend to follow their fathers through military service. Even though their dads may still be struggling with the aftermath of the war in Vietnam four decades ago, our kids still think they’re tough enough to skate through a war unscathed..
Montana has the second-highest ratio of veterans in its population, ranking only behind Alaska.
It also has the second-highest number of alcohol-related deaths per capita in the nation.
And Montana leads the nation in the number of suicides per capita. While America as a whole reports 10 or 11 suicides per 100,000 population, Montana doubles the national average with 22 suicides per 100,000 population in 2005, the most recent year for which there are statistics.
There are about 180 suicides in Montana each year, and each suicide leaves an estimated six, emotionally scarred survivors.
The state health department talks about Montana as a frontier state; with about 4 people per square mile, there’s a lot of social isolation. In rural Montana, there’s not much access to mental health care, and there’s a stigma against seeking out a counselor. Furthermore, the state’s alcoholism rate is estimated to be 50 per higher than the national average. And there are a lot of guns available.
But I submit that the correlation between military service, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcoholism and suicide may be one of the strongest indicators of the toll that combat takes.