Fixing the Military’s Broken Mental Heath Care System, Culture, is First Step to Ending Suicide Epidemic

The broken mental health care system within DoD and the VA has contributed to many thousands of deaths by suicide among those who have served during America’s “Global War on Terrorism.” Since war began after 9-11, at least 2.5 million men and women have worn the uniform. Most who subsequently decided to end their own life by suicide did so after witnessing or directly participating in the horrors of war. The Fayetteville Observer’s series of in-depth reports titled “The Last Battle” has focused a new bright light on suicides, psychiatric injuries, maltreatment of wounded soldiers at Fort Bragg and the larger issues contributing to the 18 daily suicides by those serving on active duty and veterans. The below post reports a summary of suggested solutions to ending the needless loss of life from military suicide. (The Oregonian)

THE LAST BATTLE: Efforts to Provide Mental Health Care for War Veterans Falling Short

by Greg Barnes and John Ramsey
The Fayetteville Observer, Sept. 26, 2012

The last battle of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is being fought at home.

And in 2012, the military and the VA have done more than ever to respond to the anguish of men and women who are haunted by war.

This year, the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs rolled out promising new programs and research to identify and treat post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other lingering effects of combat that afflict as many as one in five service members.

Myriad studies are under way. Budgets for mental health treatment programs are doubling. Thousands of new counselors have been hired.
But there is little evidence that the tide has turned in the battle. Too many service members suffering from mental health problems still are not being identified until they get into trouble.

Suicides are climbing. Commanders struggle with the twin demands of monitoring the mental health of their soldiers while maintaining focus on their core mission of training for war.

Based on extensive interviews with troubled soldiers, military and VA leaders, and mental health advocates – along with evidence from statistical data and civilian and military studies – it is clear that there are things that must be done better if the country is going to win this fight against the “hidden wounds” of war.


The military must do a better job of identifying men and women who are suffering from mental health problems early, before PTSD blossoms into domestic violence, substance abuse or suicide.

The military must make more mental health counselors available – in the field and at home.

The military and VA have to eliminate their communication problems and aggressively address the bureaucratic hurdles that slow the processing of veterans claims.

The country cannot depend on the military and VA to carry the whole burden of addressing the mental health problems of those who went to war. States, local communities, even volunteers must step up.

If the country doesn’t do a better job of helping service members and veterans damaged by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the price will likely be exacted over decades.

— Greg Barnes and John Ramsey, Fayetteville Observer, Sept. 26, 2012

Read the rest of this story:


Army Announces Courts-Martial for Eight Soldiers Accused in Pvt. Chen Hazing-Suicide Moved to NC Base

8 soldiers to be court-martialed at Fort Bragg in Afghanistan suicide case

by Drew Brooks
Fayetteville Observer, April 12, 2012

Soldiers accused of bullying an Army private who later committed suicide in Afghanistan will be court-martialed on Fort Bragg, officials announced Wednesday.

Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas is one of the most senior of the eight Fort Bragg soldiers accused in the Pvt. Chen hazing case.

Military authorities say Pvt. Danny Chen of New York suffered racial taunts and physical abuse at the hands of soldiers in his company and eventually shot himself last October in a guard tower at Combat Outpost Palace near Kandahar.

The 19-year-old Chen, a Chinese-American, was deployed to southern Afghanistan as part of the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which is based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The eight soldiers charged in the death are members of C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment.

But in Afghanistan, the soldiers fell under the command of the 82nd Airborne Division, which oversees Regional Command South.

Maj. Gen. James Huggins, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and Regional Command South, requested the courts-martial be moved to Fort Bragg, officials said. The installation’s commander, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, approved the request Tuesday. An official announcement is scheduled for today on post.

Dates for the courts-martial will be decided by a military judge overseeing the case.

The eight soldiers are suspected of subjecting Chen to slurs, physical abuse and humiliation because of his race. They were charged in December with offenses including negligent homicide, battery and reckless endangerment.

Read the rest of this story:

SERGEANT’S WIFE BEGGED: “Help Me … Something is Wrong With my Husband”

At Fort Bragg, Help Never Came
Soldiers suffering psych injuries continue to ‘fall through the cracks’ despite multi-million dollar programs and numerous studies

The Fayetteville Observer, Aug 1, 2011

Three months before her husband shot himself in the family’s garage, Nicole Simmons said, she met with a chaplain and her husband’s commanders at Fort Bragg.

Help me, and help my husband, Simmons said she told Lt. Col. Marcus Evans and Command Sgt. Maj. Herbert Kirkover.

Her husband, Sgt. Adrian Simmons, had changed, she said she told them.

Simmons, who is pregnant with their second child, thought he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He couldn’t control his temper, and his memory was terrible, she said.

Nicole Simmons, Army wife begged commanders at Fort Bragg help her husband who she thought was struggling with PTSD. It never came.

“I said, ‘Something is wrong with my husband. He is saying he wants to blow his brains out. He is getting so short-tempered, so short-fused, anything will make him blow,’ ” Simmons said she told the commanders. “I said, ‘I think he needs a psychological evaluation.'”

Soon after that meeting, the 24-year-old Simmons said, a soldier came to the family’s Hoke County home to confiscate her husband’s personal guns. Hoke County Child Protective Services visited and determined that the couple’s 2-year-old son was safe as long as the guns remained out of the house.

But the Army never sent her husband to a counselor, Simmons said.

Now she’s fighting for answers. So far, she said, she’s not getting any.

Simmons said that after her husband died July 5, soldiers told her the Army was opening an investigation into what happened. But she wasn’t contacted for an interview until Wednesday, hours after the Observer sent an email to the 82nd Airborne Division asking why no one had talked with her.

“How can they be doing an investigation if nobody has been to the most important person who went to the command?” Simmons asked. “I want to know why, when I went to command, no one admitted my husband for an evaluation.”

The 82nd Airborne Division didn’t respond to questions about Simmons’ allegations or requests to talk to her husband’s chain of command. It has a policy of not discussing ongoing investigations.

Read the rest of this story: