Two Army Families Deal With PTSD, and Suicide

Army Suicides Set to Hit New High in 2009

In addition to the insurgents who fight from the hillsides before vanishing into caves in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army has fought an equally elusive and silent enemy here at home: suicide.

Many family members of soldiers returning from their deployment with post-traumatic stress disorder say the stigma associated with seeking psychiatric help has hurt their cause.

Last year marked the fifth consecutive year the Army experienced a record number of suicides in its ranks.

As with thousands of soldiers before them, and thousands more likely to come, Maj. Chris Galloway and Master Sgt. Jim Haus returned home tormented by their experiences at war.

"His behavior was really changing a lot after Afghanistan," Haus' wife, Amanda Cherry-Haus, said. "He was drinking a lot ... he would do all these reckless, endangering things that were obviously PTSD and say, 'No, I don't have a problem.'"

Galloway's wife, Shannon, said, "I was sensing depression and I was sensing probably some PTSD and I talked to him about it, and he was like, 'No, no, no. The Army says I'm fine. I'm fine … You're the crazy one.'"

Chris Galloway, a 36-year-old father of three, did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Haus, 40, served in three wars in his 22-year army career.

Both wives said they saw differences when their husbands came back from overseas.

"Something happened to him over there that totally changed him," Shannon Galloway said.

Families Struggle

She said her husband, after months on edge in a combat zone, was unable to adjust to the different pressure of life at home. She said their marriage frayed as she pleaded with him to seek help.

"We're the ones that live with them ... and we are there when they wake up at night freaked out because of some dream or because they can't sleep," she said.

The Stigma of PTSD

She said her husband carried on at work while concealing his struggles. He was afraid that the stigma of mental health treatment could derail a promotion, she said.

Galloway said she convinced her husband to attend counseling sessions with her, but it did not last.

"He agreed to go to two sessions with me to my counselor because it was to help me," she said. "I'm like, 'OK, as long as it gets him in.' But after that, he was done."

Cherry-Haus said she watched her husband descend into a similarly dangerous depression. His drinking and infidelity made her think about walking away from the marriage, but she persisted.

"I pushed a lot, all the time, every day. 'You need to get some help. You need to get some help,'" but he fought back, insisting it was not necessary, she said.

The Army Tries to Cope

One-hundred-sixty active duty soldiers committed suicide last year. The number pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of soldiers. But it was the fifth consecutive yearly record for suicides, despite an unprecedented effort to address the problem.

There were 39 suicides among active-duty Army personnel and 32 among not-on-active-duty personnel in the first quarter of this year, down from the comparable period in 2009 but on pace to end the year roughly equivalent to last year's 160 suicides.

"We have so many opportunities out there for them, but they are not taking advantage because they don't see a need," Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force said. "They don't recognize it in themselves.

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