“If you go to mental health, that will be the end of your career,” is an ominous warning that echoes through all branches of the military.
According to a report in 2017 from the Department of Defense Suicide Prevention, there have been 1,397 suicide attempts by active duty members, and over half of them had seen a health care professional within 90 days prior. Since since 2006, over 3,400 active duty military members have died by their own hands. The system continues to miss people who are in crisis and forces soldiers to feel as though they cannot speak up. Under certain circumstances, commanders can access a member’s mental health information, including situations where they feel a condition could risk a mission. Because “harm to mission” is such an ambiguous criteria, soldiers are too worried about losing their careers to seek treatment. Physical injuries, on the other hand, are always reported and soldiers are given the ability to heal. Mental health should be handled in the same regard: no stigma, and treatment with no questions asked.