I have grown increasingly concerned with the tone recent articles have taken about suicides by veterans treated at our facility ( www.visn20.med.va.gov/Spokane). Suicide is devastating for all involved. It is an irrevocable decision that forever alters families, and leaves friends and family members consumed with guilt and a long list of “what ifs.”
The provider identified in your paper (“VA withholds doctor’s record,” Feb. 18) has worked here for six years. He is one of seven psychiatrists who treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other significant mental illnesses. He has helped hundreds of veterans, is a dedicated provider and is extremely committed to his patients.
When the 2008 suicides occurred, Dr. Brown was assigned to Spokane’s inpatient psychiatric service. This means that he regularly came in contact with the most troubled veterans. A tragic and often unacknowledged reality is that depression and PTSD can become chronic conditions that, like other chronic illnesses, may lead to increased mortality. It is also important to note that those who have been psychiatrically hospitalized have a higher rate of suicide than those who have not. Therefore, although Dr. Brown had contact with some of the veterans who later took their lives, the innuendo that he was responsible for these deaths is irresponsible.
Director, Veterans Administration Medical Center