I am sorry that it has come to this “takes the listener on the brink of desperation, but, strangely, in the end, it brings the listener to a sense of relief and victory. It’s an important play on the individual’s right to choose a course in life and death. It’s also fitting that it be shared on Nov. 11, a day that we should recognize as the birthday of certain freedoms. The last words of the piece, “I am free” is an irony to what we “celebrate” as the great gift of freedom we as Americans have” (anonymous). The latest figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that there were more than 6,000 Veteran suicides each year from 2008 to 2016 (the last year of available data). In 2016, the suicide rate was 1.5 times greater for Veterans than for non-Veteran adults. As a clear result of 21st-century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, from 2005 to 2016, Veteran suicide rates increased 25.9 percent, and from 2015-2016 the suicide rate for Veterans ages 18-34 increased from 40.4 suicide deaths per 100,000 population to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000. As of the time of this work’s premiere in November 2018, 20 Veterans take their own lives each day. The numbers are staggering, but for many who have no direct contact with the effects of the mental and physical illnesses afflicting many of our nations Veterans, it is easy to get lost in the numbers. In I am sorry it has come to this, I have attempted to provide a reflection (or commentary) on the issues of Veteran’s health care, suicide, and the individual’s choice to choose life or death. The piece features 22 different voices reading excerpts from a Veteran's suicide note documenting crippling mental and physical illnesses. These 22 individual voices represent the number of Veterans who took their own lives each day at the time the suicide note was written. They are women, they are men, they are Millennials, they are Baby Boomers. The words they read could have been written by any one of the 22 Veterans they represent. As a friend recently said, “it is striking how many of our country’s most fundamental issues are, or ought to be nonpartisan matters of shared human concern.” This is one of those issues.
For more information and to view the most recent VA National Suicide Data Report, please visit: https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/data.asp