Pentagon Document Calling Gays Mentally Ill: 65,000 Military Service Members Are Without Adequate Mental Health Care

Arlington, VA, (PRWEB) June 22, 2006 -–

A recently discovered Pentagon Instruction (1332.38) classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder, along with mental retardation, impulse control disorders and personality disorders, prompted swift response from several members of Congress in a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld calling for an immediate review. Nine members of the House Armed Services Committee asked the Department of Defense to update the classification noting that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1973.

“The classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder by the Department of Defense (DoD) in direct contradiction with the broader mental health community as well as social and medical research creates yet another significant barrier to over 65,000 gay service members seeking mental health care, responded Tony Smith, Executive Director of Military Community Services Network (MCSN), a non-profit organization focused on ensuring confidential social services are available to all service members regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity.”

“Any barrier to service members seeking mental health services has a detrimental impact on unit cohesion and mission accomplishment. The inconsistent directions and implementation of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy as well as this outdated DoD instruction leaves active duty mental health providers to decide individually how and when to maintain confidentiality of the service members seeking counseling. Therefore, gay service members have no assurance of confidentiality, risking investigation and discharge based solely on their sexual orientation. The result is that many of the 65,000 service members don’t seek mental health care even when critically needed such as combat related stress or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after combat deployments, Mr. Smith continued.”

“It’s critical that active duty service members are able to access all of their health care benefits, including mental health care, replied Elizabeth Carr, Psy.D., Lieutenant Commander (IRR), Medical Service Corps, United States Navy.” Service members, who don’t feel they can speak freely to their military health care providers, generally won’t have alternative resources while deployed or stationed in remote locations. This leaves them to suffer in silence and potentially puts their unit’s readiness in jeopardy, Dr. Carr concluded.”

The topic stirs many different responses from mental health providers. “The fact that the Pentagon holds on to this scientifically debunked view that homosexuality is a “mental disorder” shows just how homophobic the military is and how dangerous it is for service members. Many gay and lesbian service members were well on their way to long and successful careers in the military when the DADT policy was put into effect. The real mental disorder is not homosexuality, but homophobia and extreme religiosity, passionately responded Tamara J. Hawk, a licensed specialist clinical social worker providing counseling to service members and veterans near Ft. Riley Kansas.”

“As the debate on DADT continues and regardless of where people fall on the issue, the fact remains there are thousands of gay service members who are serving honorably and deserve access to the best health care, said Mr. Smith. This is where MCSN stepped in and developed sensitivity training for military, civilian, and Veterans Health Administration (VHA) mental health providers that offer counseling to gay service members and veterans. This training, developed by former, retired, and reserve military mental health professionals, is intended to break down the barriers to accessing confidential mental health services. We are in the process of deploying the training to mental health providers in the communities surrounding military installations across the country. And mental health providers who share the concerns regarding breaking down barriers to accessing mental health care are all needed for the success of this effort.”

“As a U.S. Air Force veteran the motto ‘we take care of our own’ always stood out for me. And that is exactly what we work towards every day with MCSN. There are 65,000 of our own who sacrifice in military service every day. The least we owe them in return is to take care of their health concerns by providing access to confidential mental health and other medical services, Mr. Smith concluded.”

Military Community Services Network (MCSN) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that ensures confidential social services are available for all service members regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity. If you are a mental health professional or volunteer and want to learn more about MCSN and our programs please visit our website at and contact us.


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