At a veterans event a few days ago in northern Virginia, Donald Trump made the following comment “when you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it but a lot of people can’t handle it. They see horror stories, they see events you couldn’t see in a movie, nobody would believe it …”
The Clinton campaign, and their media allies, of course found great offense at these comments by suggesting Mr. Trump was saying that soldiers struggling with PTSD are weak. The adversarial, us vs. them, nature of politics does not allow for a dialogue of the issues – just an opportunity to use sound bites out of context for gotcha moments. Beyond the simple fact the Clinton campaign wasted no time to use the national tragedy of suicides for political advantage should disqualify her from ever serving as Commander in Chief; they, of course, did not bother to understand the ultimate point Mr. Trump was trying to convey – our VA Health System needs a complete overhaul when it comes to strengthening spiritual strength in suicide prevention and intervention.
The end of the response goes as follows:
“And the whole mental health issue is going to be a very important issue when I take over, and the VA is going to be fixed in so many ways, but that’s gonna be one of the ways we’re gonna help. And that’s in many respects going to be the number one thing we have to do because I think it’s really been left behind.”
I have spent the last three years studying the programming and the outcome of suicide prevention programs throughout the Department of Defense for my doctoral research project. As a former Army Chaplain, I have experience in counseling soldiers who were in danger of hurting themselves. As of now, there is one aspect of therapy that has been left out of suicide prevention programs – a new paradigm of care which includes chaplains into a holistic therapeutic process. Simply put, you cannot adequately sustain mental health without encouraging spiritual health.
Plato said a long time ago that a balanced person (one who is not at risk of suicide ideation) is squared away in all three aspects – body, mind and soul. In my opinion, suicide prevention strategies have relied too frequently on the medicinal (body) and psychological (mind) solutions instead of recovering the humanity of the service member and/or veterans which is in their heart and soul.
Antonio W. Campbell
M.Div., Liberty University Seminary