Friday, July 8, 2011

White House to Start Sending Condolences to Families of Troops Who Commit Suicide

Carsten Medom Madsen/shutterstock
The White House has announced that it will begin sending condolence letters to families of troops who commit suicide in combat zones. The new policy is a reversal of one that extends back through several presidential administrations to decline to send condolence letters to families of service members who committed suicide, even if the suicides occurred in combat zones. The policy was based on concerns in military circles that recognizing such deaths would encourage more suicides. Presidential condolence letters will still not go to families of service members who commit suicide in areas other than official combat zones.

In recent years, the military suicide rate has risen above the rate for the general population, a reflection, experts say, of the stress of rapid-tempo combat operations and multiple deployments. Additionally, the high rate of traumatic brain injury associated with roadside bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq is believed to have contributed to depression and PTSD among soldiers. 

Psychiatric News has provided extensive coverage of the crisis involving suicides and the soaring rate of PTSD in the military, including at Additionally, see The Textbook of Traumatic Brain Injury, 2nd edition, published by American Psychiatric Publishing Inc. Purchase information is posted at


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