Trump under fire for questioning strength of veterans who take their own lives


Donald Trump's suggestion that veterans who take their own lives "can't handle it," thus implying they are somehow weaker than veterans who survive, is not just deeply insensitive, but flatly wrong. Illness, whether physical or psychological, is not indicative of "weakness."

Donald Trump, during remarks before an audience of veterans: “When people come back from war and combat and they see maybe what the people in this room have seen many times over, and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it."

Compare this to President Obama's response to a question about veterans with PTSD, in which he sought to destigmatize mental illness and explicitly said "there's no weakness in asking for help."

We have, culturally, created and maintained stigma against disclosing mental illness and stigma against seeking treatment. Tasking individual people with overcoming social pressures, as well as institutional failures to ensure access to mental healthcare, is unjust. This is not about a failure of personal strength.

Trump, however, with his history of mocking a disabled reporter and mocking Hillary Clinton's stumble when she had pneumonia, seems to regard all illness as a sign of personal weakness.

Jon Soltz, Iraq War veteran and chairman of, made plain in a statement to Shareblue all that is wrong with Trump's statement:

These comments, as horrible as they are, are not shocking. We’re talking about a person, in Trump, who believes that POW’s aren’t real heroes, and that he’s made sacrifices akin to Gold Star Families who lost their loved ones in war. The constant disrespect Donald Trump shows towards our veterans and servicemembers is sickening, and completely and totally disqualifying.

Donald Trump is showing himself to be a completely toxic person, who only looks to pit groups of people against each other. Comments like these go against even the most basic training people in the military receive, to deal with mental wellness issues. These kinds of remarks only further stigmatize issues like post-traumatic stress, and discourage people from seeking the help they need. It will only exacerbate the issue of veteran and military suicides. Any commander would face serious consequences if he or she said this. For a potential Commander in Chief to say it is unthinkable.

The fact is, dealing with the mental wounds from war has nothing to do about someone’s strength. You wouldn’t say that someone can just deal with a traumatic brain injury without proper care, because he or she is ‘strong enough,’ or that an amputee doesn’t need care because he or she is ‘strong enough.’ And you certainly wouldn’t say that someone who seeks care for those things is, in any way, weak. If Donald Trump took even 3 seconds trying to understand and respect our veterans, he’d understand that.

Paul Rieckhoff, founder of IAVA, tweeted the following:

Trump owes our veterans, and the families of those whose lives were lost after they came home alive, an apology.