Mental Health Screening Process for Troops Should be Strengthened

Gazette (Colorado)

MENTAL HEALTH: Screening process for troops should be strengthened

Editor, Gazette:

After reading the Aug. 6 article about the soldier killing his wife and then himself, I had to ask myself, “What is it going to take for the armed services to realize that there is a problem with the way mental health is being treated after deployment” (“Deputies: Slain wife told GI of affair,” The Gazette)? This is not the first incident and surely won’t be the last if something isn’t done to take care of our soldiers’ mental health.

Here’s my take on this situation, and yes, I’m speaking from experience. When I came home last year, I knew that there were some underlying problems with my marriage. When we come back we receive a hurried and incomplete mental health evaluation. At the time I knew my wife and I had some issues to work through, but I was so happy to be home that I wasn’t truthful in answering the questions asked of me. I have since been in for counseling, been on three different antidepressants and even been suicidal. Now it’s 16 months later with me living in my own apartment and a divorce in the works, and I can see how stupid it was to not answer honestly.

I don’t believe anyone in the chain of command wants to delay a soldier from a nice homecoming for the reason of mental health treatment or counseling. I think all soldiers should have a follow-up after a certain period of time after returning — maybe a month? — so help can be provided if needed.

I’m not sure if this is a sufficient enough solution, but it’s better than what is happening now. I would also urge any returning soldiers reading this to seek help if you even think you might need it. Don’t succumb to the stereotypical view that asking for help makes you weak. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’m a stronger person for it.

Master Sgt. Mark Lauterbach
Colorado Springs

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