(Updates with comments by American Legion and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in fifth-sixth paragraphs.)
July 6 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama, in a change of longstanding government policy, will begin sending condolence letters to the families of U.S. soldiers who commit suicide in a war zone.
“This issue is emotional, painful and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House. “They didn’t die because they were weak.”
Obama said he consulted the military, including the defense secretary, before changing course. Plans for a White House review were announced in late 2009 and began in 2010, spokesman Tommy Vietor said in an e-mail.
CBS News reported the change yesterday.
American Legion National Commander Jimmie Foster said suicidal thoughts are a symptom of post-traumatic stress, which he called “one of the signature wounds of the war on terror.” Soldiers’ deaths “shouldn’t be marginalized in any way,” Foster said in a statement.
John Madigan, senior director of public policy at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said Obama’s policy change sends “a strong message that America will not tolerate a culture in our armed forces that discriminates against those with a mental illness or furthers stigma.”
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