Caring for Those Who Take Care of Our Troops

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What can you say when a mental health expert — who is married to a mental health expert — can’t get the requisite counseling help he needs to survive?

Dr. Peter J.N. Linnerooth’s story is as cautionary as it is haunting – hopefully it will shed much needed light on the tragic consequences of PTSD, and the overwhelming need (and moral obligation) for our government to marshal the very mental health resources for which Dr. Linnerooth so tirelessly advocated.



Dr. Peter Linnerooth in the faculty guide at Minnesota State University at Mankato, 2008.

A former Army captain and mental-health professional whose mission in Iraq was to care for troops on the battlefield suffering from combat-induced anguish, Dr. Linnerooth succumbed to his own personal struggle with PTSD and depression when he took his own life Jan. 2.  A Bronze Star recipient for his noteworthy service in Iraq, Dr. Linnerooth was a consummate advocate for providing comprehensive mental health resources to those in need, for both the warriors who fought and the clinical psychologists who healed them.

Yes, even military psychologists (“the Healers”) need help sometimes – in interviews with TIME and the New York Times several years ago, Dr. Linnerooth described the community of military psychologists, of which he was a part, as being overworked, understaffed, and prone to professional burnout.  He acknowledged that the very trauma military psychologists are charged with treating can, if they aren’t careful, destroy the Healers from the inside out.  With nauseating foresight, in describing the demons faced by military counselors just like him, he unknowingly foretold his own heartbreaking destiny.

How many tragedies like this must we endure before the government gets serious about providing the VA with the resources it so desperately deserves?  Our veterans, their Healers, and the nation they both serve warrant better.

If our country is willing to send its young men and women off to war, then it damn well better find the will to care for these warriors, and their Healers, when they come home.