Sunday, July 13, 2008

The military and mental illness

Over at AN UNOFFICIAL COAST GUARD BLOG, I've been covering a situation involving a Coast Guard reservist, who's currently on Title 10 in the 7th Coast Guard District providing security escorts to naval combatants and merchant vessels hauling military supplies, who has been found guilty of domestic violence. The situation is troubling, and even more troubling by the multiple balls the Coast Guard has dropped with this incident. The member's former spouse and daughter have gone to ground in fear of their lives.

I trace the cause of all this to mental illness, likely starting with undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My greatest fear is that with what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, America is not ready to handle the influx of service members suffering from extreme mental illness.

And, if you think mental illness doesn't destroy families, read this from the member's brother:

You want to know why he's dead to me? He's dead to me because he was my hero, and he failed me. I idolized my brother; I'd follow him everywhere. I wanted to be just like him. I was proud of him. When he went into the Coast Guard, I bragged to my all my friends about how my brother was a hero, how he'd jump into freezing waters and how he'd saved people's lives. I wore the CG anchor around my neck, and I still wear it today in memory of the brother I once admired and loved. You have no idea how hard it is to lose your brother and childhood hero both at once.

In 1996 when my brother came back, he was different. The best word to describe him was "cold." Like a dog, he'd guard his food. He wouldn't even drink a single beer because he felt 1 beer was a loss of control. His personality was stone cold and lifeless. He was angry at the world. He'd spend hours making sure his clothes were folded perfectly. He ironed his fucking socks.

He had a wife and son. His first wife treated my brother very good, but over time, she grew more and more afraid of him. To this day she is scared to death of him. The shit he did to her and his 2 kids is dishonorable and damn right disgusting. I used to admire my brother for his strength, but since he came back, and his actions over the years, my admiration turned into fear and disrespect.

This is, I believe, merely one situation which has been, and will be, repeated too numerously in the years to come. Veterans with substantial mental illness ought not be shunned or put away, but treated without stigma with appropriate medications and therapy. As a country, we can't deal with what he have already; how will we deal with what is to come?

1 comment:

  1. Here's one group trying to help returning vets: