Senators want condolence letters for families of suicide victims
By LEO SHANE III
Published: May 25, 2011
Stars and Stripes’ coverage of suicide in the military
WASHINGTON – A group of 11 senators is again asking the White House to send letters of condolence to families of servicemembers who commit suicide, saying the move could help reduce the stigma of mental health illnesses among troops.
“Perpetuating a policy that denies condolence letters to families of service members who die by suicide … further alienates families who are already struggling to cope with the death of a loved one,” the letter states. “It is simply unacceptable for the United States to be sending the message to these families that somehow their loved ones’ sacrifices are less important.”
In December 2009, White House officials promised a review of the policy not to send condolence letters to families of suicide victims, following public pressure on the issue. In today’s letter, the lawmakers asked why the review has not yet been finalized, adding “it is long past time to overturn this hurtful policy.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., co-chair of the Senate Military Family Caucus, said in a statement that the move would “honor the service of all the brave military men and women who sacrifice for our nation.”
According to Defense Department statistics, the military saw 434 suicides in 2010, compared with 462 combat deaths. More than 1,500 troops committed suicide between 2005 and 2010.