What a sobering headline and even more sobering story.
We are becoming used to the headlines by now. Iraqi war vet kills family, self. Iraqi GI commits suicide. Iraqi war vet beats girlfriend to a pulp. I have made up those headlines, but the stories are there nonetheless.
The amazing Ken Salazar, D - Colorado - Obama's pick for Secretary of the Interior - has called for an investigation into recent spikes in violent crimes committed at Fort Carson, Colorado. Many GI's have not just served once in Iraq, but have rotated several times - to the point that mental health counselors don't just ask whether they have been to Iraq, but how many times they have been deployed when meeting with clients initially.
The stigmas attached to mental health issues continue to plague our society. As one who manages bi-polar disorder, I am all too cognizant of how one is viewed when one has a mental disorder/illness/disability. Indeed, I was forced to resign from a beloved job only two years ago due to increased stress which exacerbated my illness and caused erratic mood swings and behavior.
I digress. The story can be found at this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/02/us/02veterans.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp As always, I encourage you to read the entire story instead of just my excerpts.
I wanted to share the following for those of you who won't have time to read the story today: "General Graham, whose oldest son, Jeff, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq a year after another son, Kevin, committed suicide, has made mental health a focus since taking command of Fort Carson in 2007. “I feel like I have to speak out for the Kevins of the world,” he said. Graham is the base commander at Fort Carson and his son was an ROTC shining star, on track to become a physician - when he started to experience depression, he was worried about how he would be viewed (dimly, from all statistics in and out of the military, unfortunately for Jeff) once he disclosed his illness. He hung himself at the tender age of 23.
I knew nothing of Ken Salazar prior to reading about him being nominated for his new position in Washington. We are all incredibly fortunate to have such an advocate at the highest levels in government.
If there are any readers out there who are struggling with depression, help can be found here:
www.nami.org 1-888-999-6264 - National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
www.nmha.org 1-800-969-6642 - National Mental Health Association
www.craigslist.org - for those of you who want to attend support groups for people with depression - look under "community."
Last week I learned that I have been accepted into Mercy College here in the NYC area where I will study social work. Ultimately, it is my desire to get an MPA/MSW so that I can help those who struggle with social issues, mental health issues and those who are the marginalized in society. There is an overwhelming amount of work to be done, but it must be done. Let's roll up our sleeves and spend some time volunteering at our local VA or crisis center.