Prof. Senecal Examines Causes of Suicide Among Veterans in New Book

Jun 15, 2021

Assumption Professor of Human Services Gary Senecal, Ph.D., has recently published a book, American and NATO Veteran Reintegration: The Trauma of Social Isolation and Cultural Chasms (Lexington Books) that examines mental health issues among former American service members. 

Prof. Senecal said that he and his co-author, MaryCatherine McDonald, Ph.D., an assistant professor of philosophy and religious studies at Old Dominion University, “were inspired to begin this work when we became aware of the stark differences in PTSD diagnoses and in suicide rates between American veterans and our NATO allies in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”  

In a series of articles, the authors previously examined the reintegration process from active duty to civilian life, but restricted their analysis to American veterans.  “This prompted us to ask whether a cross-cultural analysis would yield a deeper understanding of the roots of the lasting and often fatal trauma that plagues American veterans in hopes of determining if there were clear trends that might help us understand what was happening within American culture to make the reintegration process uniquely difficult,” he said.
The authors interviewed 40 veterans of the war in Afghanistan—20 American veterans and 20 veterans from NATO allies—and discovered a deep divide between military and civilian cultures in American society than in other NATO ally countries represented in the study. According to the research, American military members’ sense of identity plays a significant role in the creation of a military/civilian divide in which civilians are perceived as “other,” very much in contrast to their counterparts among the armed forces of NATO allies who view military service as an expansion or enhancement of their identities.  

Prof. Senecal, who has been a member of the Army Reserves since 2013, joined Assumption in 2014, where he has taught courses such as Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Human Disability Across the Lifespan, Client Assessment, Military Psychology-the Social Reintegration of Veterans, and Sports Psychology.