An Open Letter to Our Soldiers

  • A recent Washington Post article claims, "Last year, 121 soldiers took their own lives, nearly 20 percent more than in 2006."


    The U.S. Army Medical Command Suicide Prevention Action Plan estimates that in 2007, about 2,100 soldiers injured themselves or attempted suicide, compared with about 350 in 2002.


    Whatever side of the aisle you're on, re: the Iraq War and Afghanistan, I'm sure it troubles all of us to hear this. People fighting in wars for our country deserve our support. Even one suicide is one too many.


    What's the solution?


    Get out of the war.


    Even the army chain of command is well schooled in stigma.

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    Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside had a psychiatric breakdown in Iraq, and now tells her story. She was greatly disturbed by one of her commanders who repeatedly harassed her, according to an Army investigation. On January 1, 2007, she had a mental breakdown, and was sent to Walter Reed. Whiteside's two immediate commanders brought charges against her. The fear of being court-martialed led her to swallow dozens of antidepressants, and a soldier and his wife, who lived next door, found her.


    She survived. Others aren't so lucky. Upon discharge from the Army, another woman hanged herself. She was denied benefits after having served her country.


    Congress has already given the military hundreds of millions of dollars to improve its mental health care, so hopefully its members will hire psychiatrists and psychologists who have either been in a war, or are versed in the effects of war.


    This blog I present as an open letter to the soldiers defending the U.S.:


    We want you home safe.


    We respect your decision to enlist and risk your lives for us.


    We are people living with mental illnesses who understand what it's like to have had a breakdown.


    You will always be on our minds. You will not be forgotten. You deserve compassion and empathy.


    We have room in our hearts for all of you.


    God bless you.





    Survivors of war, and of abuse or other violence, often experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you or someone you know is dealing with this, log on to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It offers a Fact Sheet, a link to FAQs, and suggestions on Treatment and Care. Designed for the general public as well as veterans, I found this Web site (now in an expanded form chock full of detailed information), helpful shortly after 9/11 when the Twin Towers were attacked.

Published On: February 06, 2008