Support Mentally Ill Troops

We need to be united in our rage and speak with one thunderous voice on this (Kay at White Noise Insanity, emphasis mine):

Here’s the rundown:

  • Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside served 7 years honorably in the Army and then volunteered to go to Iraq
  • She was tormented by one Officer while in Iraq
  • She tried to commit suicide by shooting herself in the stomach
  • She ended up at Walter Reed Veteran’s Hospital
  • She befriended another soldier at Walter Reed named Samantha who also suffered from mental illness
  • Lt. Whiteside is being charged by the military for trying to kill herself etc., she could be facing life in prison, and may lose her ability for an ‘honorable discharge’, which could cost her her medical benefits et al.
  • Samantha, her friend mentioned above, hung herself and died recently
  • Lt. Whiteside still is suffering mentally.
  • Here’s what a military psychiatrist said about her in court:

“I’m not here to play legal games,” Col. George Brandt responded angrily, according to a recording of the hearing. “I am here out of the genuine concern for a human being that’s breaking and that is broken. She has a severe and significant illness. Let’s treat her as a human being, for Christ’s sake!

Things happen in war that can break the healthiest minds.  A cut in your heart that makes a rope seem friendlier than going home is no less serious an injury than that left by an IED.  What we need to understand, is that Lt. Whiteside’s mind was injured before she tried to commit suicide.  Suicide is not the act of a person fully in control of their self.  If innocence by reason of mental insanity has any meaning at all, then suicide cannot be a crime that lands one in jail.  It must be a cry we listen to, and respond to with medical care and compassion.  The response of our military is itself psychosis in the flesh (WaPo):

Military psychiatrists at Walter Reed who examined Whiteside after she recovered from her self-inflicted gunshot wound diagnosed her with a severe mental disorder, possibly triggered by the stresses of a war zone. But Whiteside’s superiors considered her mental illness “an excuse” for criminal conduct, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

At the hearing, Wolfe, who had already warned Whiteside’s lawyer of the risk of using a “psychobabble” defense, pressed a senior psychiatrist at Walter Reed to justify his diagnosis.

This is what Col. George Brandt responded too with such justified anger.  Attempted suicide is not the act of a sane individual.  Mental illness is not an excuse, it is the reason.  And what the hell is with the talk of excuses?  If someone is attempting to commit suicide, what the hell do they need with excuses?!

The answer?  Our military has no fucking clue when it comes to mental disease, and no inclination to improve itself:

But outside the Pentagon, the military still largely deals with mental health issues in an ad hoc way, often relying on the judgment of combat-hardened commanders whose understanding of mental illness is vague or misinformed. The stigma around psychological wounds can still be seen in the smallest of Army policies. While family members of soldiers recovering at Walter Reed from physical injuries are provided free lodging and a per diem to care for their loved ones, families of psychiatric outpatients usually have to pay their own way.

The rest of the article is replete with instances of the military’s incompetence and callousness in the matter.  We mustn’t fail our soldiers, our citizens, in such an egregious way.  Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside shouldn’t be charged with a single crime.  She should be helped.

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7 Responses

  1. My God.

    This so enrages me. Like little else. THIS is so evil- it defies the intellect and imagination. Satan himself is at the hands of this nightmare. We know this.

    I wish there honestly some way to make it all better. To wash it clean so we could start over. I know you wish the same. It makes me stand at my kitchen window and ask for release from this hell.

    My prayers are with this young woman and the one who crossed, and all the others who know now who they serve. A blessing of true love that they will be released from the hands of this evil forever. Please, dear God, intervene here for them all. In the name of true love.

    thanks for posting. Did you ping this to Technorati?

  2. […] Support Mentally Ill Troops « Fitness for the Occasion […]

  3. Thanks Dan for your piece on this too! I’m going to link your piece too.

    The thing about the military is they view those that try to kill themselves as being against the military code of solidarity. They refuse to believe that not all soldiers are able to cope with their feelings or have a hard time when a higher up recklessly goes after a subordinate day in and day out, and of course, when a soldier tries to reach out for help, they don’t respond like a family would! Sad. The military is more concerned about their reputation, rather, than the well-being of their soldiers.

    Makes me so angry.

    And what about Samantha who hung herself? Good gawd!!!! As Whiteside’s father pointed out, who is taking care of the soldiers whose families are not able to be by their side? I guess no one!!!!!!

    My life has been affected by suicide. After seven people close to me over the last 22 years have taken their lives, knowing Samantha was alone and struggling and had no one to reach out to, it brings up those feelings again of helplessness and rage.

    Whiteside needs medical help…..not a trip to prison for the rest of her life where she’ll be ignored and untreated!!!!

  4. I responded to the other hysterical blog, as well. Let’s remember, regardless of Elizabeth’s mental state, she threatened to kill other people while possessing a deadly weapon. If someone had done this here in the U.S., there would be a good chance they would be sentenced to psychiatric care, or worse, prison. You just can’t threaten to kill people, even in the Army, even in a War Zone. Elizabeth obviously deserves our upmost attention, our respect, and our help, free of charge for the rest of her life; she has earned this. But she does not deserve an honorable discharge. Having served in Iraq, I can tell you, soldiers who threaten or attack other soldiers are not honorably discharged, no matter the stress. No soldier would want to serve with a soldier who could get away with this behavior. It has to be addressed.

  5. The military in it’s intended role is fine but when it is used as a tool by politicians to whatever ends it becomes unraveled. Our allowing the white house to “use” the troops for anything other than what they were trained for is an abomination.

    Our allowing scumbags like Rove and co. to ignore congressional subpoenas is as well. The guys/gals in the suits are above the law and the guys/gals in the fatigues are victims of it. The system is still broke and there isn’t a contender for president that will change it.

    We have a greedy, power hungry, out of control government that is chewing up the citizens and spitting them out by the ton and no apparent way to stop it. Makes me consider sucking on a tailpipe when I look at all the misery created by these losers.

    The ability to create is demeaned by the power to destroy it seems.

  6. Updated Info (Washington Post)

    SGT Lewis,
    This is hardly hysterical. She was not mentally stable when that occurred. Considering the only person she hurt was herself when she shot herself in the stomach, I think the actions taken were appropriate. Threats do need to be dealt with, surely. At the same time, if someone is having a psychotic episode, we need to take that into consideration.

    In any case, she’s gotten an honorable discharge. It looks like the military has, partially in response to public pressure, taken the right steps in her case, so long as she receives medical attention for her mental problems and the military does not shirk that responsibility.

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