Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Obama Reverses Condolence Letter Policy for Military Suicides

According the Associated Press, "President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he's decided to reverse a long-standing policy of not sending condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide while in a combat zone." The policy had been under review since 2009 and Obama released a statement explaining the change:
As Commander in Chief, I am deeply grateful for the service of all our men and women in uniform, and grieve for the loss of those who suffer from the wounds of war - seen and unseen.

Since taking office, I've been committed to removing the stigma associated with the unseen wounds of war, which is why I've worked to expand our mental health budgets, and ensure that all our men and women in uniform receive the care they need.

As a next step and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the military chain of command, I have also decided to reverse a long-standing policy of not sending condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide while deployed to a combat zone.

This decision was made after a difficult and exhaustive review of the former policy, and I did not make it lightly. This issue is emotional, painful, and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely. They didn't die because they were weak.

And the fact that they didn't get the help they needed must change. Our men and women in uniform have borne the incredible burden of our wars, and we need to do everything in our power to honor their service, and to help them stay strong for themselves, for their families and for our nation.
While the statement does specify suicides in combat zones, this policy draws more attention to the issue once again and hopefully signifies a renewed effort to find a way to stop these suicides. As the video points out, last year there was a suicide almost every day.


If you think a letter of condolence minimizes the deaths of people who die in the line of duty then you're missing the forest for the trees. The issue here is mental health access and better screening measures. Condolences are not a zero sum game and recognizing one tragedy does not erase another. It's all a bit idiotic to think otherwise.

4 comments:

  1. This makes me happy. There are so many veterans suffering from some form of mental illness. People don't understand how hard that is for them or their families.

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  2. The old policy is a tad insulting, so it's good that it's been changed, but you're right: more needs to be done to treat the mental scars of the wars.

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  3. Been browsing for some nice condolence card messages or just any words to uplift and comfort people who are downhearted. I felt happy to have found this inspirational page of yours. These words are very nice. Thanks and keep sharing :)

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