This lack of care continues on even in death. Did you know that the US government has a policy to not send a letter of condolence to military family members whose relatives committed suicide while in the armed forces? To quote Melissa McEwan of Shakesville, whom I learned about this appalling practice from, this both dishonors the service person as well as stigmatizes mental illness. That, of course, is no surprise to me; when I had another friend working toward getting into the military, the friend had to “buck up” and deal with a mental illness rather than have it taken care of by a professional and have it reported on the friend’s medical records, which would have interfered with eligibility for a specific position desired. My friend, who suffered great abuse and other problems and would have thrived with such help, instead bore great pain every single day in order to enter the armed forces.
You may argue that my friend had a choice whether to enter the military or not—but should anyone be denied a dream because of a preexisting health condition (or sexuality, for that matter)? Sure, some disabilities and conditions make people ineligible to serve because it could simply further harm the individual, but plenty are allowed. A mental illness, however, is grouped into a large category (“crazy”) without individual cases being reviewed, which isn’t fair to victims who simply want help.
As far as soldiers who do commit suicide, think of what they’re already enduring. All of that pain and suffering—particularly within a young person’s still developing mind—should not be written off by the government. Instead, the person should be honored as any other service member—if not more so, for who is to say that had he or she not been in the service or on a particular mission, he or she would still be alive today?
Like McEwan says, many of these suicides are also staged or take place in very suspicious circumstances. No service person deserves to have his or her memory tarnished after doing his or her job by not having his or her service acknowledged and recognized by the very people who put him or her in harm’s way in the first place!
Please join me in signing this petition form the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health America that asks for this atrocious policy to be changed. Every member of the military deserves to be recognized for service given to the country.