Military Suicide Survivors Speak Out on Discriminatory Treatment from Government

With rates of suicide, the development of post-traumatic stress disorder, and violent incidents involving mental health such as the recent shooting at Fort Hood, the military has been scrambling to address what is clearly becoming a major health concern among its personnel. Creating plans for early identification and prevention of mental health concerns has been cited as a predominant goal for the military, and establishing meaningful pathways to support for veterans and their families after active duty is also a priority. But little, if anything, has been proposed for addressing the suicides that do take place, nor caring for the families that survive suicide victims. Though it may not receive much attention from the press or from lawmakers, the government’s treatment of military personnel who kill themselves, as well as their treatment of surviving families, has come under fire recently as grieving parents wonder why they aren’t served with a presidential letter (Dao 2009).

For well over 100 years, those who perish in service to the United States are given certain honors upon their deaths, one of which is a presidential letter sent to the surviving family. While this tradition is still carried out today, families of military suicide victims report that they are not given such letters, an omission that many suspect may reflect the government’s disrespect for suicide and for mental health issues at large. Some observers note that the military’s attempt to erase the stigmas surrounding mental health concerns are not aided by the practice of exempting these surviving families from full presidential honors, and may well discourage soldiers and other servicemen and women from seeking help.

As details about the treatment of these families continue to surface and capture the public’s attention, advocates hope that the government will rise above the limitations of its current policies to express its support for all of those who fall while serving the country.


Dao, J. (2009, November 25). Families of military suicides seek white house condolences. The New York Times. Retrieved from

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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    November 30th, 2009 at 10:57 AM

    Well, I think this has to do with the archaic laws in our country… in olden days, most people considered suicide as a crime, if not anything more than that. People were thought of to be weak and not courageous if they committed suicide. Maybe this has a role to play with such a practice… but as we move forward, even the laws need to be modernized and be amended to suit the changing world.

  • richard


    December 1st, 2009 at 10:58 AM

    This is something I, like many others, was not aware of and it is pretty surprising to know of such discrimination. Bringing out this fact to more and more people might just be the catalyst for the change that is required in this issue, and I just can’t help but say that your article has just set the ball rolling.

  • Renee Phillips

    Renee Phillips

    April 21st, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    Well, I was told by someone in recent months that a person who commits suicide is a coward. I totally disagree with that! I think personally it takes a very brave person to do something like this to themselves. And who are we to judge? We should help these people instead of criticizing them!!! Because you never know until you have walked in their shoes. Its more prevelent than we know and more people have thought about than will admit. Let help instead of criticizing one!!!

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