Source: Mark A. Hewitt

The Department of Defense has a suicide problem. Thank Presidents Clinton and Obama

Prior to 1993, the Department of Defense (DOD) used to screen recruits, officer candidates, and service academy entrants for mental, personality, and suicide behavior disorders.  Now they don’t.

The Department of Defense uses the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as its source reference for psychiatric diagnoses and metal disorders.  Most Americans have little knowledge of, the DSM, its contents, and its implications.  The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and “offers a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders.”  It is used, or relied upon, by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, the legal system, and policy makers.  In the United States the DSM serves as a universal authority for psychiatric diagnoses.

The January 30, 2018 edition of the Marine Corps Times announced: The Corps’ suicide rate is at a 10-year high.

The Marines also continue to review data involving suicides that are used to address policy, guidance and suicide prevention analysis, according to Manpower and Reserve Affairs.  The Corps has a slew of training initiatives and outreach programs regarding suicide and suicide prevention.

Every Service in DOD has suicide prevention programs, yet all of the Services are experiencing significantly higher-than-normal suicide rates.  What really happened to these suicidal men and women who somehow escaped the torpedo net of training initiatives and outreach programs?

The APA’s DSM had always been a part of the DOD’s personnel procurement system.  When men and women had enlistment physicals, they were evaluated by a physician for obvious physical defects and to also see if they had an apparent mental or personality disorder.  Any potential recruit screened with mental, personality, and suicide (and a range of other) behavior disorders were considered unfit for service.  Then President Clinton signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law.

DOD’s policy that screened for personality disorders and mental illnesses during the pre-enlistment physical was terminated as a function of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law.  The law removed all screening for DSM categories of homosexuality, sexual and personality disorders and mental illnesses.

First published in 1968, DSM-II, listed Personality Disorders and Certain other Non-psychotic Mental Disorders.  In this section, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder.  There is much documented history that under pressure from sexual activists and gay-rights groups, the APA compromised, removing homosexuality from the DSM but replacing it with the kinder and gentler descriptor: “sexual orientation disturbance” for people “in conflict with” their sexual orientation.

In 1987 homosexuality was struck from the DSM by a majority vote of the APA members.  When President Clinton was elected, sexual activists lobbied the new president for better standing in the military.  Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was the DOD policy from 1993 to 2011, when it was repealed by Congress.

In 2012, transvestitism and transgenderism were also eliminated from the DSM-5 (fifth edition), gender identity disorder was replaced and further redefined, and softened the transvestitism and transgenderism disorders into gender dysphoria.  The change in terminology removed all implication and designation that transvestitism and transgenderism were mental illnesses.  Dysphoria is defined as the distress a person experiences as a result of the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.

There was a problem that no one wanted to talk about for those people clinically diagnosed with sexual and gender identity disorders.  For decades, transvestites and transgenders experienced one of the highest overall suicide rates for people with mental illnesses.  According to, 90% of all suicides are the result of untreated mental disorders.  Over 60% (and possibly up to 90% as shown at Case Western) of transgender people have comorbid psychiatric disorders, which often go wholly untreated.  Transgender people report attempting suicide at a staggering rate — above 40%.  Some studies at have it as high as over fifty percent, regardless of whether the transgender opted for sexual reassignment surgery or not.

It was DOD policy to screen for homosexuality up until 1993.  President Clinton removed the recruit screening process for homosexuality as well as for personality disorders and mental illnesses when he signed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

With transvestitism and transgenderism finally voted out of the DSM in June 2015, LGBT rights groups had one urgent agenda item for President Barack Obama: End the ban on transgender people serving in the military.  It wasn’t that transvestites and transgenders had been straining red rope barriers, lining up at recruiting stations to serve in the military in a rush of abject patriotism; no, acceptance into the military allowed transgenders free government-paid sexual reassignment surgery.

Literature on the topic was clear; the foremost concern in the minds of transgenders wasn’t patriotism or employment but how they were going to pay for sexual reassignment surgery.  Overnight, “open” transgenders as well as “closet” transgenders lined up for enlistment.  DOD announced they would foot the bill for hormone therapy and reassignment surgery.  Activists considered their work a success.  Few knew the group with the highest rate of suicide had just been admitted to the military and DOD was going to foot all of their bills in order to make them “whole.”

DOD started hiring people with sexual identity and personality disorders, and mental illnesses and the Service’s suicide rates started to rise dramatically.  When you no longer disqualify people with sexual and personality disorders and mental illnesses, the category of people with a built-in stratospherically-high suicide rate, is anyone really surprised the Services’ suicide rates are off the chart?

Civil servant applicants have an administrative screening process, a questionnaire that screens for indicators of personality disorders and mental illnesses.  Prior to 1993 overt homosexuals were also barred from the intelligence community for blackmail risks.  The intelligence community administered polygraphs to people needing a clearance to work in that environment.  They generally don’t hire people with overt personality disorders or mental illnesses because they are generally unstable and untrustworthy, and these behaviors are exposed during polygraphs.  When we read about some person (e.g, then-Bradley, now Chesla Manning) who was caught trying to traffic classified documents, and when they are arrested, is it just coincidence that they suddenly identify as transgender or claim to have an undiagnosed personality disorder?

I would recommend the DOD consider the controversial DSM-5 be suspended in its entirety and reinstitute the APA’s previous version, DSM-4.  Reinstitute the recruit screening programs that detected and removed people with personality or gender identity disorders and other mental illnesses at the source.

Removing those who exhibit the traits of having personality disorders or mental illnesses or those who are predisposed to kill themselves over confusion of their sexual identity, DOD might find their suicide problem substantially reduced.