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Robin William’s “Inner Demons”: Shedding Light on the Stigmatization of Mental Illness

August 15, 2014

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Combat Medics Struggle with Heartrending Life and Death Decisions

May 7, 2014

On May 31, Memorial Day, Jeanne Phillips of “Dear Abby” printed letters from soldiers and combat medics that were touching and riveting. The topic of the day was combat medics and the emotional pain they endure when they are forced to make divine battlefield decisions, such as who gets treated without delay and whose treatment gets postponed.


Apparently, these letters were in response to an earlier correspondence that detailed the alarming anguish a particular combat medic experienced when a critically wounded comrade pushed him away in order to free him to treat other troops who had a better chance of surviving.


We can all concur that what this medic did when he allowed himself to be pushed away was a sensible act because, after all, it permitted him to save the maximum number of soldiers that day. He made a rational decision. But was it emotionally palatable? No. To the contrary, it was a grief- and guilt-inducing choice.


Other combat medics wrote in to say that they, too, suffered psychological repercussions after helplessly watching some of their brave friends die. The nightmares and flashbacks that resulted pressed them to seek help, and the treatment they received allowed them to keep their battlefield images under control.


Combat medics demonstrate courage under grueling conditions. As a group, they triage their buddies and decide which ones are most likely to survive. At all times, their goal is to save the greatest number of soldiers they can. And while they are working tirelessly to save human life, they are also under attack by the enemy. Combat medics have one of the highest per capita casualty rates in the armed forces.


The soldier who pushed the medic away was well aware that he was forfeiting his life for the good of his unit and his country. His unselfish act enabled other warriors to survive. Even so, the combat medic involved is only human, and his sorrow is burdensome to bear.


I salute our heroic combat medics. And I am sorry for the emotional load they carry. I hope they all find the strength to seek professional help that will enable them to carry on with greater ease. Telemental health counseling, via state-of-the-art video technology, can help our combat medics get the help they need; it is a safe, private, and convenient approach to therapy.

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