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VA hospital manager mocks veteran suicides in email to employees

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A Veterans Affairs hospital manager in Indianapolis is under fire for an email containing photographs that mock the suicidal tendencies of the veterans in her care, The Indianapolis Star‘s Tony Cook reports.

The email sent by Robin Paul — a social worker who manages the Seamless Transition Integrated Care Clinic (STICC) at Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center — contains photographs of a toy Christmas elf posing in one of the hospital’s clinics under the subject line, “Naughty Elf in the STICC clinic.”

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In one of the photographs, the elf is pleading for the anxiety and panic relief drug Xanax. “Out of XANAX — please help!” the caption to that photograph reads. “Self-medicating for mental-health issues when a CNS would not give him his requested script.”

In another, the elf is depicted as having committed suicide by hanging himself with an electrical cord. That photograph is captioned “Caught in the act of suicidal behavior (trying to hang himself from an electrical cord).”

According to the VA, 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

When contacted by The Indianapolis Star, Paul referred the paper to the hospital’s public relations department, which replied on her behalf.

“I would like to sincerely apologize for the e-mail message and I take full responsibility for this poor judgment,” the statement read. “I have put my heart and soul into my work with veterans for many years. I hold all veterans and military personnel in the highest regard and am deeply remorseful for any hurt this may have caused.”

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Julie Webb, a hospital spokeswoman, added that “[t]he email is totally inappropriate and does not convey our commitment to veterans. We apologize to our veterans and take suicide and mental-health treatment seriously, striving to provide the highest quality.”

Webb also said that Paul had been disciplined for the email, but declined to say how.


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