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Dr. Scott E. Henry, a cardiovascular surgeon in the Division of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery Henry Ford Hospital, always seemed on track to great success.

He graduated 6th in his high school class of 335; he was president of the senior class and captain of the football team. He graduated from Indiana University with honors and a degree in biochemistry in three years before moving on to the Washington University School of Medicine and then a residency in general surgery, after graduation, at Wayne State University/Detroit Medical Center, followed by a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Louisville and a staff position in Reading, Pa.

But Henry, in a video on the Henry Ford website, said he feels most successful when a patient who came in with a serious, possibly life-threatening problem can walk out of the hospital in pretty good shape.

Henry has been battle tested, too.

After a year in Reading, Henry was deployed to Al Kut, Iraq as part of a Forward Surgical Team in the U.S. Army as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

He joined Henry Ford Hospital after that deployment ended and he also has done a tour in Afghanistan, providing medical services to soldiers.

And while the cardiovascular surgeon’s primary focus is on heart disease, strokes, heart attacks etc., he is also concerned about the mental health of U.S. soldiers.

In June, The New York Times reported, the Pentagon said the suicide rate among the nation’s active-duty military personnel had spiked to the rate of almost one a day and was on pace to set a record this year, the highest since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The rate has increased despite the U.S. drawdown of troops in both countries and military efforts to provide mental health, drug and alcohol, and financial counseling services.

In response, the Defense Department (DoD) has established a Defense Suicide Prevention Office and  DoD has worked with Veterans Affairs (VA) to create a suicide awareness campaign.

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told The Times that suicides among active-duty military personnel were merely “the tip of the iceberg,” citing a survey his organization had done of 160,000 members that found that 37 percent knew someone who had committed suicide.

Rieckhoff said there was a shortage of qualified mental health professionals to assist active duty soldiers and that some service men and women fear being stigmatized if they seek professional help.

One veteran, who did not want to be identified, told BlackAmericaWeb.com in an earlier interview that when she asked for counseling after her first tour in Iraq, she was ignored. When told she would be redeployed she said she asked for a deferment and was told that if she insisted on treatment, she would be considered a malingerer and stripped of her rank.
The woman said she feared losing rank and with the economy in tough straits, going back to civilian life seemed out of the question. She said she was given some medication “and I took those little pills and went right back to Iraq.”

She served two more years after her second deployment before finally mustering out of the Army. She got help and is now working and back in college.

“Obtaining employment and quality education remain big obstacles, as well. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans continue to face higher levels of unemployment compared to civilians, according to the (Bureau of Labor Statistics),” Rieckhoff wrote in a blog for the Huffington Post in September.

“This underlies the fact that just as we need a national effort to win the battle against suicide, we need the same collaboration to surge against veteran unemployment and other challenges facing the New Greatest Generation.”

Click here for answers to your questions about mental health.

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