A US Soldier who returned from his second deployment in Afghanistan was punished instead of treated after he told a mental health professional he wanted to kill members of his unit.
When Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based helicopter mechanic Specialist Scott Miller sought help at Fort Campbell’s Bach Army Community Hospital (BACH) after he discovered surfacing thoughts of murdering his comrades. Thinking he could get the treatment he needed, he opened up about his feelings to the medical staff.
“I didn’t threaten anybody directly,” Miller said. “I was there to try and get help, and I was honest with the behavioral health provider. I know that I’m not going to get any better if I’m not honest with my feelings and thoughts.”
While Miller was hoping for a solution, he appeal for help came only at his expense when he was diagnosed with PTSD while simultaneously slapped with a criminal investigation and disciplinary action that resulted in him being demoted on his way out of the military.
While neither Miller’s unit nor BACH would comment on the case, BACH spokeswoman Laura Boyd said that the soldiers’ commanders need to develop strategies to deal with troops that have mental problems.
“We stress to our soldiers of all ranks that seeking behavioral health care is a sign of strength,” Boyd wrote in written responses to questions from The Baltimore Sun. “Seeking treatment or obtaining help before negative outcomes occur is key to maintaining a healthy mental and emotional state.”
However, National Alliance on Mental Illness advocate Emily Blair says the Defense Department is failing their soldiers.
“I would say the culture right now unfortunately is very stigmatizing,” Blair said. “We’ve barely scratched the surface.”
Miller’s attorney in the criminal hearing, Lieutenant Colonel Jay Thoman, said he couldn’t find other cases where hospital staff had aided in a criminal investigation or where a commander had taken disciplinary action over something a soldier said to mental health.
“Overall the Army is very concerned about PTSD and doing the right thing and taking care of its soldiers,” Thomas said. “And when a chain of command takes the action they did in this case, it sets the Army’s efforts back.”
Miller worked on AH-64 Apache helicopters for the 101st Airborne Division and had been deployed to Afghanistan twice.
Miller’s wife Felicia says her husband just wasn’t the same after the second deployment in 2015- he had run into medical issues and sent him home after less than two weeks.
In October of 2015, Miller went to in-patient treatment for the first time and remained in constant cycle between home and hospitalization until December, when his thoughts suddenly went from suicidal to homicidal.
With his wife driving him to BACH, Miller tried desperately to stay focused, with Felicia talking to him the entire duration of the drive.
When Miller told a licensed clinical social worker how he was feeling, she warned him that if he continued, he would be reported.
“I just described what I was thinking how I was feeling,” he said. “I was just being honest because I knew that my thoughts and feelings weren’t correct.”
In describing his thoughts, Miller reportedly told her he would hit three of his unit members with a pipe. The Social Worker notified the Military Police and gave a sworn statement, as well as notifying the potential victims.
Following the incident, Miller was transferred to a mental hospital, kicked out of his company and was served legal papers.
In May of 2016, Miller’s new Company commander summoned him, finding him guilty of violating military law and demoting the Specialist to Private First Class. Miller said he was told that his commanders felt they needed to make an example of him in order to deter others from following the same path.
However, all Miller sees is that the system is stacked against soldiers who may wish to seek help.
“They try to put out that there’s no stigma about it,” Miller said. “But there is. It’s still there.”
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