Last week President Obama announced that he would begin to send letters of condolence to the families of troops who kill themselves in combat zones. This is a change in policy which has been advocated by many groups including families of soldiers who have died by suicide as well as many mental health professionals. One such family is that of Chance Keesling who died by suicide in June of 2010. Despite the accomplishment by the President of this important change it should be noted that the new policy still has some wording in it which make it inherently unfair and discriminatory.
This blog is written to mark the first year of PsychiatryTalk.com being on the Internet. The readership has expanded from 25 hits/week to over 300 hits/day and it is still growing. A followup on the topics of several of the blogs written in the past year was reported.
At the present time if a U.S. soldier who served in Iraq or Afghanistan is physically and/or psychologically injured and subsequently commits suicide, his or her family will not receive a Presidential letter of condolence as will soldiers who die by other means. This is unfair and hurtful to the families with loved ones who have volunteered to serve their country and die as a result of their service. A spokesperson for President Obama said that the policy in regard to who should receive a letter of condolence is currently undergoing a review. This issue is discussed and it is suggested that letters be written to the President, Secretary of Defense and members of Congressas well as professional organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association which could influence these people, urging that the above policy be changed so Presidential letters of condolence will also be written to soldiers who have died from suicide.