Provide Mental Health Services to Soldiers at High Risk of Suicide

Target: Lloyd Austin, Secretary of U.S. Department of Defense

Goal: Invest in mental health services to prevent soldier suicides.

In just one week, three sailors from the same naval ship have committed suicide. Four other sailors on the USS George Washington had also taken their lives in recent years.  Allegations of uninhabitable living conditions and consistent failures of leadership to address a known mental health crisis have sparked an investigation into the string of deaths.

Both past and present sailors have detailed untenable conditions aboard the ship as it remains docked for repairs. They allege minimal access to running water, electricity, and cooked food. For months, and in some cases, years, they have been used as what they called “glorified janitors”—performing duties well outside their training. And perhaps most punishing of all, unrelenting construction work in the dead of night has led to severe sleep deprivation for sailors forced to remain aboard the ship. Some of the sailors who have made these claims admit to attempting or seriously thinking about suicide themselves.

Allegations have also arisen that when some distressed sailors pled for mental health services, they were met with indifference or hostility. One of the more recent commanders reportedly left his post early after concerns arose about his judgment and ability to lead, yet he was still awarded a Legion of Merit for supposedly high occupational safety scores. Another top naval leader seemingly dismissed many of the concerns by claiming that at least the sailors aren’t “living in foxholes.”

Armed forces members in mental distress are not a new phenomenon. In 2019, the USS George HW Bush saw its own suicide trend. Unfortunately, despite pledges for change and reform, these dedicated men and women still feel, in their own words, “forgotten” and “left out to dry.”

Sign the petition below to demand the Department of Defense act with urgency to prevent senseless deaths.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Secretary Austin,

The men and women who serve the United States are no longer only falling on the battlefield. Too many are succumbing to the battlefield entrenched in their minds. Leadership in the armed forces cannot afford an attitude of “suck it up” and “soldier through” when soldiers are taking their lives on ships, bases, and other military installations across the country.

The tragedies of the USS George Washington should be a wake-up call. Reviews, committees, and investigations are no longer enough. The proof of the problem is in every fallen soldier. Protect the individuals who have dedicated their lives to protecting this country with the mental health aid for which they have pled and been denied for too long. Make counseling services and leadership training in these crises a top priority.

Answer the desperate SOS calls with the lifelines so desperately needed.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Casey Kyhe


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