This is nothing about which I have any knowledge or expertise, but it seems important. Salon has run a series about it which IMO deserves attention. Here it is, with their 2 follow-up reports. At the end you will see links for more information about this problem, and other posts on the FM site about our men and women in uniform.
(1) “Death in the USA: The Army’s fatal neglect“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Slate, 9 February 2009 — Introductio tot he series.
(2) “The Death Dealers took my life!“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 9 February 2009 — “Adam Lieberman tried to kill himself when he returned from Iraq. Only then did the Army take his mental health seriously.” Excerpt included below.
(3) “‘Kill yourself. Save us the paperwork’“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 10 February 2009 — “Pfc. Ryan Alderman, now deceased, sought medical help from the Army. He got a fistful of powerful drugs instead.”
(4) “Mark Waltz, Kenneth Lehman, Chad Barrett“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 10 February 2009 — “The details of three more deaths that might have been prevented among Fort Carson-based soldiers.”
(5) “‘You’re a pussy and a scared little kid’“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 12 February 2009 — “John Needham returned from Iraq, suffering from combat stress. If he had received proper care, would he be standing trial for murder?”
(6) “‘”That young man never should have come into the Army’“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 13 February 2009 — “Kenneth Eastridge had PTSD before he ever donned a uniform or did two tours of duty in Iraq. Now he’s in prison for his part in the murder of a fellow soldier.”
(7) “Coming home: The conclusion“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 14 February 2009 — “In the final article in Salon’s series, we ask what President Obama will do about the rise of suicide and murder among U.S. soldiers returning from combat.”
(8) “Army says deployments not linked to suicides“, Alex Koppelman, Salon, 5 March 2009 — “The Army released frightening new suicide statistics Thursday, but suggested the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have little to do with this alarming trend.”
(9) “Soldier suicides skyrocket“, Mark Benjamin, Salon, 19 March 2009 — “But a tepid Senate hearing on Wednesday, with no testimony from lower-ranking combat troops from Iraq or Afghanistan, does little to explain why.” See the “for more information” section at the end for a link to the hearing’s presentations.
“The Death Dealers took my life!“, By Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 9 February 2009 — “Adam Lieberman tried to kill himself when he returned from Iraq. Only then did the Army take his mental health seriously.” Excerpt:
The day before Halloween 2008, Army Pvt. Adam Lieberman swallowed handfuls of prescription pain pills and psychotropic drugs. Then he picked up a can of black paint and smeared onto the wall of his room in the Fort Carson barracks what he thought would be his last words to the world. “I FACED THE ENEMY AND LIVED!” Lieberman painted on the wall in big, black letters. “IT WAS THE DEATH DEALERS THAT TOOK MY LIFE!”
Soldiers called Lieberman’s unit, the 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, the Death Dealers. Adam suffered serious mental health problems after a year of combat in Iraq. The Army, however, blamed his problems on a personality disorder, anxiety disorder or alcohol abuse — anything but the war. Instead of receiving treatment from the Army for his war-related problems, Adam faced something more akin to harassment. He was punished and demoted for his bad behavior, but not treated effectively for its cause. The Army’s fervent tough-guy atmosphere discouraged Adam from seeking help. Eventually he saw no other way out. Now, in what was to be his last message, he pointed the finger at the Army for his death.
It would be a voice from beyond the grave, he thought, screaming in uppercase letters. The last words, “THAT TOOK MY LIFE!” tilted down the wall in a slur, as the concoction of drugs seeped into Adam’s brain.
Late last month the Army released figures showing the highest suicide rate among soldiers in three decades. The Army says 128 soldiers committed suicide in 2008 with another 15 still under investigation. “Why do the numbers keep going up?” Army Secretary Pete Geren said at a Pentagon news conference Jan. 29. “We can’t tell you.” The Army announced a $50 million study to figure it out.
It is not just the suicides spiraling out of control. Salon assembled a sample of 25 cases of suicide, prescription drug overdoses or murder involving Fort Carson soldiers over the past four years, by no means a comprehensive list. In-depth study of 10 of those cases revealed a pattern of preventable deaths. In most cases, the deaths seemed avoidable if the Army had better handled garden-variety combat stress reactions.
Interviews, Army documents and medical records suggest that Adam might not have attempted suicide if he had received a proper diagnosis and treatment. His suicide attempt seems avoidable. But the Army’s mistreatment extended well into its aftermath.
For more information
- “Suicide Prevention Program Update“, CDR Aaron D. Werbel PhD, HQ USMC, 26 January 2009
- “High-impact training to address Corps’ suicide rate“, HQ USMC, 19 March 2008 — See the following entry for the video.
- “Suicide Stand Down Video“, produced by the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
- Testimony on the incidence of suicides of United States Service members and initiatives within DoD to prevent military suicides, Senate Armed Services Committee, 18 March 2009 — By 8 senior officers and A. Kathryn Power (Director, Center of Mental Health Services, Department of Health and Human Services).
Articles in the general media:
- “Suicide rate rises among airmen“, USA Today, 24 October 2004
- “Suicides in Marine Corps Rise by 29%“, LA Times, 25 January 2005 — “Fast Pace of Operations Are Believed to Contribute”
- “Marine suicide rate up, prompting more prevention training“, LA Times, 28 January 2009 — Commanders plan two-hour sessions for all their troops, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
- “Army sees sharp rise in suicide rate“, LA Times, 30 January 2009 — “It’s the highest in 30 years. Military officials say in a report that prevention efforts are inadequate.”
- “Leaders testify in D.C. on high suicide rates“, Marine Corps Times, 18 March 2009 — Report on the Senate hearing; see the previous section for a link to the hearing’s presentations.
- “A General’s Personal Battle“, Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2009 — “The military is facing a sharp spike in suicides, and Maj. Gen. Mark Graham is leading the fight to reduce them. His mission is close to the heart: His own son, a young ROTC cadet, killed himself six years ago.”
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For more information from the FM site
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest are:
- About An Army near the Breaking Point – studies & reports
- About America’s national defence strategy and machinery
Posts about America’s men and women in uniform:
- Washington’s Gift, 24 December 2007 — A summary of and link to an article by the author Thomas Fleming, published on the Opinion Page of the Wall Street Journal.
- A crisis at the beginning of the American experiment, 27 December 2008 — Looking at the problems looming before us, it is easy to forget those of equal or greater danger that we have surmounted in the past.
- An effective way to support our Troops: help the Blue Star Mothers of America, 8 June 2008
- Time: “America’s Medicated Army”, 12 June 2008
- Stratfor: “The U.S. Air Force and the Next War”, 13 June 2008
- “VA testing drugs on war veterans” – The Washington Times and ABC News, 18 June 2008
- Support the USO – more effective than a bumper sticker, 5 July 2008 — Another way to support our troops, more effective than a bumper sticker.
- Is post-traumatic stress disorder more common now than in past wars?, 17 July 2008
- One of the best geopolitical posts of the year, IMO, 12 August 2008 — “War is the great auditor of institutions”
- A lesson for America – and an inspiration, 13 March 2009