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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

'Toxic leadership' a rare but potent trigger in Fort Campbell suicides

The Leaf Chronicle is doing some great reporting on military suicides. Attempting to explain how things go so wrong that so many of the servicemen and women take their own lives after being willing to risk them for the sake of others.

In this series you'll read about how being in the military itself can in fact cause such a level of hopelessness that suicide seems to be the only way out. Toxic leadership still causing damage and a very long list of other things that went wrong.

When you read this, you will have a better idea of what is going on. The Department of Defense Suicide Event Report for 2012 has not been released yet. That is a huge issue considering this is already the middle of July. They have not released the suicide numbers for May or June. Both of these reports should have been out and that is what has researchers very concerned. Is is yet one more factor in the endless suffering these men and women are going thru? Or is it more an attempt to cover up the fact that after all these years of "efforts" to prevent suicide in the military increased them instead?
'Toxic leadership' a rare but potent trigger in Fort Campbell suicides
Fort Campbell reports highlight catalysts, but why is PTSD missing?
The Leaf Chronicle
Phillip Grey
Jul. 15, 2013

CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — Relationship issues, financial problems and substance abuse have long been known to trigger suicides, but in recent years a new term has crept into the military suicide lexicon: “toxic leadership.”

“These leaders are selfish and self-serving individuals who crush the morale of subordinates and units,” said retired Lt. Col. Joe Doty and Master Sgt. Jeff Fenlason in their report for the Army on the topic.

“In the best of circumstances, subordinates endure and survive toxic leaders, then the leader or the subordinate moves, changes units or leaves the military. However, at worst, a toxic leader devastates the espirit de corps, discipline, initiative, drive and willing service of subordinates and the units they comprise.”

Hostile, indifferent or inadequate leadership was noted as a factor in seven of the 17 Fort Campbell suicide investigation reports reviewed by The Leaf-Chronicle and news partner WSMV-TV, Channel 4 in Nashville. In many cases, Army investigators called for further action and proposed solutions.

Only one case rose to the level of the “toxic leadership” label, though, and it appears that leadership may have driven one exceptional soldier to the brink.
No one in the chain of command or within the platoon even knew their brand-new private was living off-post, unauthorized, with a sergeant from another unit who was profiting financially by the arrangement and whose behavior after the private’s suicide included keeping the private’s personal possessions from the family.

Treatment within the platoon wasn’t deemed hazing, but it was characterized by the kind of pointless humiliation that prompted the private’s family to question in the harshest terms what kind of people were being allowed to serve as leaders in the Army.

Throughout the report, the overall impression of the private’s Army experience is one of meaninglessness.

In little more than four months time, the private went from wanting to go to Ranger and Officer Candidate School to wanting out. While AWOL in another state, he talked intermittently about wanting to return to Fort Campbell, but he never made it back.

Instead, on New Year’s Eve 2011, after listening repeatedly to what a close friend described as a “suicide song,” he texted a suicide message to his mother, took a gun from a relative’s home and killed himself. Evidence of marijuana in his system indicated drugs may have been an additional catalyst.

What about PTSD?

Junkin’s suicide was also one of at least five cases of the 17 studied in which the families of the deceased soldiers believed PTSD was a factor.

Yet PTSD is conspicuous in the reports by its near-total absence, despite that 14 of the 17 victims experienced a combat deployment.

The problem is that a PTSD diagnosis can be made only when a soldier has been referred for counseling or treatment, or has voluntarily sought help for an issue associated with PTSD. Only six of the 17 soldiers appear to fall into that category. And of those, only five had deployed.
read more here

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