Tragedy Strikes Again, But Where is Help?
Yesterday, my husband came home with some terrible news.
Remember Shana Hight, the milspouse who was murdered in Virginia Beach last year? Her husband died of a self-inflicted gunshot. His roommate, a sailor aboard the husband’s ship, witnessed his death. According to the roommate, Scott Dunn was better but still not dealing well with Shana’s murder. He was drunk and may not have intended to kill himself, but as the roommate tried to talk him down, Scott pulled the trigger.
It’s horrible and sad and awful and unbelievable. I don’t know what services Scott got after he was pulled from the ship at sea and brought home to such devastating news. Clearly, the help he had wasn’t enough. And you know, since this is how brains tend to work, he blamed himself for not being there when she needed him – never mind the Navy owning his soul and there not being any way anyone could have foreseen that tragedy.
The Navy has a great responsibility to spouses who are underway when tragedy strikes at home. It’s no different than being deployed and witnessing tragedy abroad — in either case, there will be psychological repercussions. Cookie cutter responses, such as the drug-’em-up response we sometimes see toward PTSD sufferers or the you-get-six-sessions-and-then-buh-bye therapy style, are inappropriate and irresponsible. If the military can’t do better by their service members, then our politicians need to step in. There have been efforts to de-stigmatize mental health and to stimulate use of services through anonymity, but these efforts are clearly not enough.
Of course, after the bullshit we’ve seen from our politicians the last several months, I don’t suspect we can trust them to wipe the shit off their cheeks after they’ve nommed corporate asses. Still, in a moment of post-ass-play bliss, they might be amenable to doing something right by the military and ensuring there are numerous, accessible, anonymous, and taboo-free services available to all sailors, Marines, soldiers, and airpeeps, regardless of whether their mental state was fractured by war or by personal tragedy. It’s clear, not just from this particular tragedy, that the structure of mental health services for military doesn’t work well enough. Not when I personally know two sailors who have considered suicide during PTSD. Not when chaplains kill themselves because they, too, can’t get the help they need. Not when you have a sailor who lost his wife violently and needed help he clearly wasn’t getting.
And now we have a sailor who was trying to keep tragedy from striking his friend, who has now entered the cycle. I hope he’s required to get counseling, and I hope the counseling he gets is appropriate and comprehensive. I hope we don’t see even more tragedy spring from Shana Hight’s death.
People will slip through cracks. It’s unfortunate, it’s a tragedy all its own, but it is inevitable in our society. But these aren’t cracks we’re seeing people fall through. They’re fucking crevasses. And they’re unacceptable.