It was announced today that the president will send condolence letters to the families of soldiers who committed suicide as well as to the families of soldiers who died during combat.
The policy had been under review since 2009, and the issue has been lobbied by many families of suicidal soldiers. A senior White House official stated, “The president feels strongly that we need to de-stigmatize the mental health costs of war to prevent these tragic deaths, and changing this policy is part of that process”.
The Marine Corp and the Army are the two branches most heavily combative in Iraq and Afghanistan. An Army report last year indicated the two branches’ annual suicide rates increased to 20 per 100,000 people from 2004-2009.
Today military suicide rates are higher then they have ever been before, and military policy is being reviewed as unsupportive of mental health care.
The Army has changed “mental health” to “behavioral health”, and has advanced several programs for Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, suicide prevention, and mental health awareness, but there are policies that complicate mental health treatments for soldiers.
There is a policy that stipulates soldiers must be stable for three months on any given medication prior to deployment, leading soldiers to avoid medicated solutions to depression and anxiety.
Mental health problems plague troops nationwide and suicide has claimed thousands of lives. Lieutenant General Richard Zimmer of the US Marine Corps theorizes that the problem could be pride; "Marines are young, they are confident, they are aggressive, they are the last ones to raise their hand and say they have a problem."