When the Army released data earlier this month showing that suicides had spiked to an all-time high, Tom Mahany decided he had to do something to focus more attention on the issue. He went on a hunger strike in front of the White House.
Mahany, a Vietnam veteran, has firsthand experience with the trauma of military suicide. His brother-in-law, a Vietnam veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, killed himself in 1991, leaving two sons and a wife behind.
Since then, Mahany learned more about the challenges of treating so-called invisible wounds such as depression and PTSD. He hopes the hunger strike will help push the government to establish a Federal Advisory Committee. Mahany believes such a committee would focus presidential leadership on reversing the rising numbers of suicides among soldiers. Mahany also wants to see the stigma of mental health injuries reduced.
Mahany is the executive director of a veteran advocacy group called Honor For All. He points to the fact that there are over 1,000 Federal Advisory Committees including the president’s Export Council, the American National Coal Council, the Advisory Committee for Diversity in the Digital Age. He believes there should be one more with a single focus — stopping veteran suicides.