In this age of perpetual wars, active duty military, veterans and their families are facing a mental health crisis of catastrophic proportion, with no end in sight.
Deployed to a field, evac. hospital at the onset of the Iraq invasion as head of Psychiatric Services, Commander Mark Russell went above and beyond to warn the Military of the impending mental health crisis he so clearly saw coming. Though highly decorated for his pioneering work in the field of War Stress Injuries, Russell’s pleas were met with little more that lip service, and when the full blown crisis did hit, outright denial.
Finally, after three frustrating years of being met with lies, deceit and political machinations, Russell felt he had a moral imperative to speak out or be complicit. In 2006, he filed a complaint with the Department of Defense’s Inspector General alleging “gross mismanagement of military medicine’s top leaders, resulting in significant public health and safety concerns for hundreds of thousands of returning veterans and their families denied access to quality mental healthcare.”
This act of courage would ultimately end his military career and put the wellbeing of his family at great risk through a pattern of retaliation including an end to his promotion tract, gag orders and even threats from superiors: “The only way Russell leaves this base is either in handcuffs or in a box.”
As a civilian, Dr. Russell is even more determined to proactively seek system-wide change in policy and practice through whatever means necessary, including congressional action and civil litigation with the overarching goal of eradicating mental health stigma and disparity in society as a whole. Mental Health is the next civil rights frontier.
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