A great man once said, "Politics is inherently stupid." That great man was me.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bombardier Karl Manning

I have a real problem with this article:

"Manning, 31, died in what the military describes as a "non-hostile" "non-accident" incident, which is code for he likely took his own life.
...Whether it was a deliberate or inadvertent gesture, it said much about how the military's "go get'em" culture struggles to deal with suicide."

Firstly, the military's vagueness about the circumstances surrounding this proud soldier's passing does not describe how a 'go get 'em' culture deals with suicide; rather it describes the military's respect for a fallen comrade, their family and their friends. Discussing the suicide of a relative is still a very difficult thing for many families to deal with, particularly due to the anguish of knowing a loved one was in so much distress, but also because of the unfortunate stigma that still surrounds mental illness. Out of every biological disease, psychiatric illness is certainly the least understood by the public and also gains the least sympathy. No one tells a person with coronary artery disease to 'suck it up' or that 'they're just in a rut', and yet the biological basis of mental illness is just as concrete.

So in this set of circumstances, it is not at all surprising that the military would wish to say as little as possible in order to respect the privacy of a grieving family. Unfortunately, the journalist who penned this article decided to defecate all over this tactful approach and announce to the world what really happened, you guys.

Don't misunderstand my point here; PTSD, depression and suicide are all issues that the military has been miserable at dealing with; partly due to the military culture, yes; but also because it's actually not easy to tell who is silently suffering. You may not have noticed, but people are really good at hiding the severity of their illness and I'm willing to bet that there are those reading this who have lost loved ones to suicide and would wholeheartedly acknowledge this to be true. It must also be recognized that the general population is hardly any better at figuring out who is at risk for suicide, let alone providing this population with proper support and understanding.

Let me make myself further clear. This is definitely something that we need to talk about - from 'shell shock', 'combat fatigue', to PTSD, we have known about and described how battle affects soldiers for over a century - but we still have not learned how to properly deal with it. I am not saying we don't need articles drawing attention to the problem (we do) and I am most certainly not saying that we should just shut up and not talk about it. What I am saying is that journalists might have a little more tact and consideration for grieving families in the short term, a lot less less condemnation for a military that does, and a tone that is more constructive than condemning.

Rest easy, Bombardier Manning,

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