Thursday, March 29, 2007

Perspective: Military going online to stem troop suicide

Michael Crutchfield took his own life just after Christmas, 2006, in Balad, Iraq. In an email to his foster brother he wrote, "As you know, there are more people waiting for me to pull this trigger than there are waiting on my return to the states."

Here's a future scene from the Iraq battlefield, circa July 2007: A U.S. soldier battles against the enemy all day long. At night, after returning to base, he's troubled by what he's seen. But he knows better than to speak up.

Just outside the view of his fellow soldiers, he logs on to a virtual therapy Web site provided by the military called He knows that if his comrades see him talking with one of the shrinks on base, they would lose trust in him, label him a head case. A medical file soon would contain records of the visit. If he ever wanted a promotion, he'd have to explain the weakness of his mind.

Or that's the thinking among the male-dominated, therapy-averse troops, according to researchers, therapists and military psychologists who met at the fifth annual Military Suicide Prevention Conference in Hollywood, Fla., last week. Attendees discussed how to stem military suicides -- in 2005 alone, the last year for which there are confirmed figures, 22 service members killed themselves in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

Read the rest at the SF Chronicle