Local News

Son’s Suicide Prompts Man to Seek Military Mental Health Reform

Posted March 14, 2008

— The father of a Sanford soldier, who committed suicide while serving in Iraq, testified before a U.S. House of Representatives committee Friday about the need for mental health reform in the military.

Chris Scheuerman, a retired Special Forces masters sergeant, said he believes his son felt alone and had nowhere to go before committing suicide while serving with the Army.

Pfc. Jason Scheuerman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 30, 2005.

“Jason desperately needed a second opinion after his encounter with the Army psychologist,” Chris Scheuerman told members of the Armed Services Committee’s Military Personnel Subcommittee.

“The army did offer him that option, but at his own expense. How is a PFC (private first class) in the middle of Iraq supposed to get to a civilian mental health care provider at his own expense?” he said. “I believe a soldier should be afforded the opportunity to a second opinion via teleconference with a civilian mental health care provider of their own choice.”

Chris Scheuerman noted a “great disparity” of opinions between Jason’s chaplain and psychologist. The chaplain described him as “clearly troubled,” while the psychologist alleged that Jason “was capable of (faking) mental illness in order to manipulate his command.”

Chris Scheuerman said Army officials told him his son did not leave behind a suicide note.

After struggling to obtain documents related to his son’s death through the Freedom of Information Act, Chris Scheuerman said he discovered that his son did write a suicide note.

In 2007, Chris Scheuerman contacted U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge’s (D-Lillington) office for help.

On Oct. 1, 2007, Etheridge asked Army Secretary Pete Geren to launch an investigation into Jason’s death. The Office of the Inspector General was still conducting the investigation as of Friday.

Chris Scheuerman said if military officials had contacted him or his wife, Jason would have probably still been alive today.

“We knew Jason was having problems. If they had called us, there would have been a different outcome,” he said.

He suggested Friday that the military set up a hotline for soldiers to call.

“There has to be a safety net,” he said.

Chris Scheuerman also requested that an independent panel do a retrospective analysis of military suicides to find other mistakes or commonalities.

“Our family’s loss could have been a powerful training tool,” he said. “I believe we always learn more from our failures than our successes.”


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  • eatme Mar 14, 2008

    These men and women who put themselves in harms way deserve better than 3rd rate healthcare and benefits!!

  • justwondering2 Mar 14, 2008

    This young mans father seems to be an honorable man. Kudos to him for his efforts in recognizing a problem and then offering a solution.

  • Adelinthe Mar 14, 2008

    AMEN, AND AMEN!!! And having been there myself, I believe I understand full well.

    Right now, my nephew, in the USMC at Camp Pendleton and scheduled to depart for Afganistan has serious problems. He was diagnosed by two civilian psychiatrists in Sanford as being bi-polar and is seeing a civilian psychiatrist in San Diego who also has diagnosed him as bi-polar. The military will not only not acknowledge those three diagnoses, but the military will not supply the medicine prescribed by the civilian psychiatrists. He has to purchase it on his own.

    Also his wife suffers from severe heart problems and may soon require a pacemaker and his 6-year old son has esophageal problems and asthma requiring emergency treatment several times per month.

    Now tell me, do you think he should be carrying a weapon??? Without medication???

    Scares me to death!!!

    Praying for all military personnel.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • mrsvidivan2 Mar 14, 2008

    The least we can do is provide our troops with adequate healthcare. I believe we owe them that. After all they are fighting and losing limb and life for our country everyday.

  • dohicky Mar 14, 2008

    The loss of a young life - what a shame. The military is more worried about how they look than what the really do. Saying there was no suicide note when there was one was a cover up.

  • FragmentFour Mar 14, 2008

    The chaplain described him as “clearly troubled,” while the psychologist alleged that Jason “was capable of (faking) mental illness in order to manipulate his command.”--WRAL

    What a crock. Of course the man was "capable" of faking mental illness - nearly everybody is!

  • LPE Mar 14, 2008

    How incredibly sad and alone this boy must have been. Not surprised by the denial of a suicide note. He must have spilled his guts for it to be covered up. Praying for his soul and for his family.

  • badgirl Mar 14, 2008

    unbelievable - as usual our military is more concerned about having enough soldiers in some foreign land than our own soldiers - these parents should sue the US Government although that probably is not possible