On Wednesday, President Obama decided to reverse a long-held policy and begin sending condolence letters to the families of troops who commit suicide in combat zones. Previously, the President only sent letters to the families of those armed forces members who were killed in the line of duty.
The President says he’s been considering changing the policy since December 2009, and was swayed by Congress and the families, like that of Chance Keesling, who lost a loved one due to suicide.
“This decision was made after a difficult and exhaustive review of the former policy, and I did not make it lightly,” Obama said in a statement. “This issue is emotional, painful and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely. They didn’t die because they were weak.”
According to Politico, in 2009 “160 members of the Army committed suicide, and 1,713 suicide attempts were reported.” President Obama hopes that by reversing the policy it will remove the stigma attached to soldiers seeking help.
Starting this week, the President will begin sending condolence letters for any military suicides that take place in Iraq, Afghanistan or any other combat zones. This change is apart of a new push to offer greater mental health services to those in the military.