President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he would begin sending condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide while in combat.
The White House had been considering reversing the longstanding policy since December 2009 at the urging of members of Congress and the relatives of dead soldiers.
“As Commander in Chief, I am deeply grateful for the service of all our men and women in uniform, and grieve for the loss of those who suffer from the wounds of war – seen and unseen,” Obama said in a statement. “Since taking office, I’ve been committed to removing the stigma associated with the unseen wounds of war, which is why I’ve worked to expand our mental health budgets, and ensure that all our men and women in uniform receive the care they need.”
“I have also decided to reverse a long-standing policy of not sending condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide while deployed to a combat zone,” he continued. “This issue is emotional, painful, and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely. They didn’t die because they were weak. And the fact that they didn’t get the help they needed must change.”
In 2010, there were at least 468 suspected suicides by active duty and reserve troops.