Suicidal vet was "begging for help, and they kicked him to the curb"
by ItsNeverOver, Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 08:40:14 AM EDT
A few months ago, when I interviewed Josh, an Iraq War veteran, about his struggles with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD that he was affected with in Iraq, and which followed him home to Wisconsin, he told me that it had taken him 2 years to receive treatment for his conditions. His girlfriend told me that she was grateful that Josh was not one of the approximate 1,000 veterans who attempt suicide a month.
"Hundreds of thousands of soldiers who need it aren't even getting taken care of by the VA, and thousands more are attempting to commit suicide under their care. Not only that, but when I went there as 'a danger to myself and other people,' they said it was in the past and that it didn't mean that I was still. They didn't want me to be there and they didn't know what to do with me. It's no wonder they wanted to 'Shhh...' the numbers of veterans attempting to commit suicide under their care."
Lucas Senescall, a Navy veteran, took his life just two hours after he was released from the VA medical center in Spokane, WA on July 7th . He hanged himself with an electrical cord. He was last seen alive by his father, Steven Senescall, who picked him up from the facility. "He was holding his hands in his mouth just to keep from screaming," said Steven.
Yet despite Lucas' state of agitation and weeping, despite his history of bipolar disorder, substance abuse and multiple suicide attempts, despite his having been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, and despite reports quoting Lucas as saying "I don't want to exist right now," and "My heart just wants to leave my body," Lucas was assessed by the VA as a non-suicide risk and was released from VA suicide watch.
How, you may ask? The social worker's suicide risk management inventory, a standardized questionnaire used to screen patients capable of harming themselves, noted suicidal thoughts and multiple stressors, then concluded, "Risk low. Patient commits to safety plan."
Josh warned that many VA risk assessment procedures are conducted via standardized questionnaire. Lucas Senescall's suicide confirms Josh's concern. In such life and death matters, especially concerning the well-being of the young men and women who have served our country, a standardized questionnaire just doesn't cut it.
Our veterans deserve better. Sign Progressive Future's petition to increase veterans' mental health care.