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Sunday, 10 October 2010
Suicidal soldiers are being humiliated by leadership
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Topic: WAR

Suicidal soldiers are humiliated by superiors with fatal results, military medical experts say

Friday, October 8th 2010, 4:00 AM

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/10/08/2010-10-08_mocked_to_death_suicidal_soldiers_often_humiliated_by_superiors__with_fatal_resu.html

WASHINGTON - Depressed soldiers who seek help for suicidal thoughts have been publicly mocked by higherups, military medical experts told the Daily News.

The bullying involves "humiliating-type behavior in ranks, formations, where soldiers were singled out and identified as someone who is suicidal, publicly ridiculed, and things along that nature," said Army Maj. Gen. Philip Volpe.

"They call a person out in front of a formation and chew 'em out" in a misguided effort at "tough love," said Bonnie Carroll, a retired Air Force major and head of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. "They tell them, 'You dishonored your unit. You're worthless.'"

Volpe, who with Carroll led the Pentagon's suicide-prevention task force, said he has witnessed bullying - and in one case relieved a lieutenant colonel who was verbally abusing a distraught soldier.

As military suicide rates continue to rise as a result of multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army and the other services have struggled to erase the longstanding stigma of seeking professional help.

"Does the issue of stigma and soldiers being stigmatized exist? Yes. Have soldiers been demeaned, belittled, ostracized? The answer is yes," said Col. Chris Philbrick of the Army's Health Promotion, Risk Reduction Council.

For Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jim Gallagher, 40, of Brooklyn, that stigma - the fear of being seen as weak and how that might affect his career - was too much for him to ask for help.

After a tour in Iraq, Gallagher hanged himself at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in 2006.

"For him, it was an insult to be that vulnerable," said his widow, Mary Gallagher. "He knew it would be the termination of his position" if he sought counseling.

"Jim didn't know how to do that. He didn't know where to go," Mary Gallagher told The News. "I was so blindsided. I had no idea he was in such pain."

Last year, a record 245 Army troops killed themselves, with an additional 166 suicides through August of this year.

"There's still a mind-set out there in our culture that says asking for help is a sign of weakness," Philbrick said. "We're trying to get to a place where we see it as a sign of strength."

After four recent suicides in a single weekend at Fort Hood, Tex., Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of a possible spike in troops taking their own lives.

"The emergency right now is suicide," Mullen grimly noted.

rsisk@nydailynews.com



Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/10/08/2010-10-08_mocked_to_death_suicidal_soldiers_often_humiliated_by_superiors__with_fatal_resu.html#ixzz11zCm4wJ4

Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:35 PM PDT

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