Soldier’s suicide opens up questions about military’s denial and neglect

A report on today’s CTV shows that the Canadian Forces are still denying and hiding crucial information that could help others seek recognition and healing for PTSD rather than condemnation. The question is: when is the military going to grow up and start being human towards those they are responsible for under their command? BONNIE

CTV Staff

Date: Wed. Jul. 20 2011 10:38 AM ET

More than three years after a soldier committed suicide following a struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, his family is still fighting for answers about what went wrong.

Corp. Stuart Langridge, 29, was a promising young soldier who dedicated his life to the military. But on March 15, 2008, he took his own life by hanging himself in his barracks at CFB Edmonton.

Langridge, who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, had been suffering from post-traumatic stress, alcohol and substance abuse upon his return from a six-month tour in Afghanistan in 2005.

Though his family didn’t know it at the time, he had attempted suicide on six occasions.

“We had no idea how seriously ill Stuart was. We only knew parts of what was going on; we didn’t understand the full extent of it,” his father Shaun Fynes told CTV’s Canada AM Wednesday from Victoria.

Shortly before Langridge succeeded in killing himself, he checked himself into a psychiatric facility at a local hospital in Alberta.

“He was doing really well,” his mother Sheila said. “For the first time, he was really responding. And he actually asked if he could stay until he could be transferred to a treatment facility in Ontario…. But the army ordered him back to base and that’s when things started to go much worse.”

Langridge was discharged from hospital and within two weeks, he was dead.

His family alleges their son was subjected to discipline back on base, which worsened his condition. The military leadership didn’t take his condition seriously, alleges his father.

“Four days before his death, he was taken back to hospital under military escort. His medical files show he was suffering from PTSD, depression and suicide ideation. I don’t know how they can say they didn’t know he was troubled,” Fynes says.

Langridge’s death began a bureaucratic nightmare for the Fynes family. Their son’s ex-girlfriend was informed of his death before they were, and his suicide note was withheld from them for almost 15 months.

When they began asking questions about why their son’s health problems were not taken more seriously, Sheila and Shaun Fynes claim they were stonewalled and treated with indifference by Canadian Forces officials.

That prompted them to hold a parliamentary news conference last fall, which was quickly followed by an apology from Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk.

The family fought for and eventually received the Memorial Cross and Sacrifice Medal for their son. He was also included in the Seventh Book of Remembrance.

But they say they still have many questions that haven’t been answered. They say they still get up every day to complete more paperwork and make more phone calls to set things straight.

The Fynes say they want to ensure that other military families don’t have to go through what they did.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is we don’t want another family to get a phone call to tell them that their son was found dead. Stuart deserved a whole lot better,” Shaun Fynes said. “I honestly believe our Canadian Forces are the best of the best and they deserve gold-plated treatment.”

Dr. Greg Passey, a trauma psychiatrist and a former military medical officer, says the situation the Fynes family has faced is all too common.

He says despite all the progress that has been made in raising awareness of PTSD, the stigma is still there.

“There remains a lot of misperception and ignorance within the military in regards to issues like post-traumatic stress disorder. They’re often viewed as people who are disciplinary problems,” Passey told Canada AM.

Even the term ‘mental health issues,’ is stigmatizing, he says, because it doesn’t speak to the severity of the illnesss.

“The brain is a physical organ. It has physical abnormalities and diseases processes and injuries. And so we should be talking about brain disorders,” Passey believes.

Passey also isn’t pleased that the military groups suicides among its listings of “non-combat injury.” The U.S. military does a better job of recognizing that military service can take a mental toll and is more forthcoming about the fact that the job may involve a certain number of suicides, he says.

“I’m not sure why the (Canadian) military is not upfront with issues like this,” Passey said. “This individual was trained and changed by the military. He was affected by his military service and his brain was injured as a result. It would behoove them to just be upfront.”

He says even with the recent recognition of PTSD, there are still not enough psychiatric resources and professionals to go around. The situation becomes even worse once a soldier retires or is discharged.

“While they’re in the military, the resources aren’t too bad. The difficulty is once they’re released. And the reservists who have to depend on civilian resources; they get lost.

Rather than ignoring suicides, the military should be acknowledging them, Passey says.

“They’re our invisible, unknown fallen who end up suffering and dying as a result of their tours even though they’ve come home alive,” he said.


About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan vets, Canadian Armed Forces, federal government, Homecoming Vets, post traumatic stress disorder, suicide, veterans' affairs, veterans' assistance programs and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Soldier’s suicide opens up questions about military’s denial and neglect

  1. It ( the Military ) still has those hang ups, even the hardest of us feel it. The Military and Ottawa must come clean in what did they do and not do to us. It’s our lives at stake here. We are broken they need to fix us. We did our part, no Veteran should be poor, homeless and not offered education to better themselves. As well world class treatment for ALL our wounds.

  2. Pingback: PTSD – A Growing Problem… | Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

  3. Murray Scott says:

    Conflict – Battle – Soldiers – Home – Conflict

    Remembrance (re-member-with soldiers-both-past and present) is one of those words with soulful meaning, reflecting a time and place of heartfelt caring, and underlying love for Country.

    Distraction; when embraced, touched then tweaked in just the right way, mandates every bit of energy to shield us from the shame and victory of battle scarred cheeks of days gone by and hopes for a future of disabled equality.

    Alone; my thoughts for company, most times of the day are dark and meaningless in every direction.

    Victory on the battlefield had its fleeting moments of Glory and Passion mixed with self-accomplishment. I wonder what our fallen friends and family would say about the way we choose our daily struggles. Pondering if they left their torn bodies and shattered souls on the field of hope so we could live with dignity and respect? Have we surrounded ourselves with those that truly care?

    Arriving home; I can’t help wonder if we are so pre-occupied with conflict and self-justice that Victory and Triumph over our enemies are lost forever, replacing one battlefield of freedom for another. Replacing enemies was easy, that is where we felt most comfortable and safe. If we did not have an enemy, what good are we?

    Locked into a never ending battle of equality, justice and conflict with beloved soldiers of the past, present and future; had we neglected those among us who truly cared to advance our cause for well-being at their own personal risk and job security?
    Case after case we praised those who fought our battles among their peers. We found it somewhat easy to align ourselves with those who courageously put themselves at risk so our personal, financial and family lives can be a little bit easier?
    Looking in the mirror, had we not found it safer and lustful to keep the battle going with those that did not see our way of life? After all we are soldiers of the Battlefield?
    Had we not painted everyone in authority with the same brush so we could carry on the battle; we are soldiers?
    Did we weed out those who begrudged us a simple living or did we just ignore them? After all are they not the real enemy?
    Converting those who chose to claw back our money or even those who bragged about what they did for us seems to be the easy way out.

    We are Soldiers; we do not pick on those poor souls who find it necessary to discriminate against our wounded disabled so they can advance in life with a false sense of self-pride built on the backs of our Disabled Vets. . Our job is to protect those who cannot help themselves.
    Perhaps it is time to align ourselves with those individuals who work to help us help ourselves. These are the caring individuals, case Managers and Pension Officers who cannot do enough for us.
    The employees within large organizations like Veteran Affairs Canada who really do care for us. The men and women who courageously work to assure our benefits are delivered in a timely fashion. We cannot forget about those Organizations who keep our issues on the front burner. There are many good ones out there.
    In closing, I believe in my heart of hearts that should we work with those who want to work with us, we will eventually find those people who do not want to work with us.
    In strength and hope for our injured and sick Veterans.
    Murray Scott

  4. Thank you, Robert and Murray, for expressing your valued views.


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