Franklin James Cook

Readers Respond to Story of National Guardsman’s Suicide

In Intervention, Prevention on August 9, 2009 at 11:34 am

(New York Times graphic)

The New York Times story that SPNAC summarizes in “Suicides in Guard Unit Emblematic of Army’s Dilemma” generated a number of letters to the editor that the Times published today.

In one letter, Kenneth Bacon, who was chief spokesman for the Pentagon under President Bill Clinton, writes that the solution to military suicide doesn’t require “new scientific discoveries.”

We’re talking about combining proven responses to alcoholism, depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome with the need for individual and family therapy. Failure to address these issues today is nothing short of criminal.

In another letter, a Houston man who served as a chaplain in Vietnam writes

It causes the deepest trauma to see comrades torn to pieces and to hear the screams of the dying — screams that I have heard in my dreams for these past 40 years. Sometimes the screams were so loud that I woke up in sweat and in tears.

Suicide sometimes seems like the only relief — a thought I have had a thousand times. Even today I often cry myself to sleep. And I was a Catholic priest!

Douglas Jacobs, president and chief executive of Screening for Mental Health/Military Pathways, writes

“One of the greatest challenges in addressing the problem of suicide in the military is stigma. Service members are trained to be physically and mentally tough, and as a result seeking help is often seen as a sign of weakness. But it takes courage to ask for help.”

And John Draper, Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, tells readers that the federally funded crisis line for veterans is being used by 10,000 callers per month.

Veterans, family members and concerned friends should know that help is only a toll-free phone call away … It is free, confidential and available 24/7. Our veterans deserve our care. This hot line is one important service that helps to support them through readjustment challenges after service to our country.

Veterans can call the Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), and press “1” to be routed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline.

[The abridged URL for this post is .]

Related SPNAC post: “Culture of Stigma Is a Key Cause of Military, Veteran Suicides” at

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