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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

We decided we were not going to stop fighting: A veteran’s suicide

Lance Corporal Jeffrey Lucey served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, and returned home a changed person, according to his family. He had nightmares, insomnia, and deep depression, and began drinking heavily.

He told his sister he had picked out a rope to hang himself with. His family persuaded him to seek care through the Veterans Administration, where he admitted himself on May 28, 2004. He was placed in a locked psychiatric ward, but was released three days later. Two days later, he totaled the family’s car in what the family believes was a suicide attempt. A few days after that, his family persuaded him to return to seek treatment. He did so on June 5, but he was denied treatment, with no psychiatrist available, his family said. On June 22, he hanged himself in the basement of his family’s home in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

Now "the Lucey family has been an inspiration, a one-family advocacy group that has tried to bring a lot of visibility to suicide and to mental health issues for veterans," said Paul Riechkhoff, the executive director of Veterans of America. Veterans of America estimates that 117 Iraqi war veterans have killed themselves.

Jeffrey’s family has retained attorney Cristobal Bonifaz to file a lawsuit against the government in federal court in Springfield, Massachusetts. The attorney said the VA’s failure to recognize Jeffrey’s suicidal tendency amounted to negligence and medical malpractice by an overstressed, understaffed system.

Advice: Refer Iraq war veterans to Veterans of America.

You can read more in Charles Sennott’s story in the Boston Globe of July 27.

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