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"By the Grace of God, My Weapon Misfired": Senate Committee Hears Testimony from Iraq Veteran Calling for Better Mental Health Care

Contact: Katrina Gay
kgay@nami.org
(615) 545-2548

July 14, 2011

Washington, D.C -- Testifying for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI, former Army infantryman Daniel Williams of Alabama was the lead witness today before the Senate Veterans Committee, describing his struggles trying to get help for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since 2004.

"An improvised explosive device injured my body, my brain and my mind. The most severe of my injuries is PTSD, an invisible injury no one can see but that haunts my every move," he said.

"From the moment I got injured until the time that I was honorably discharged, I received very little help from the Army."

"I went to the base clinic, but was told I would need to wait six months before I could get an appointment with a psychiatrist ... I attempted suicide [with] a .45 caliber pistol while locked in the bathroom. My wife called the police."

"When they kicked open the door I pulled the trigger, but by the grace of God the weapon misfired. The officers handcuffed me and seated me in the back of a police car. One officer attempted to clear my weapon, but the same round that refused to kill me went off perfectly for him. Thankfully, no one was injured."

In the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system, Williams felt lost and without guidance.

"It took over a year to receive my medical evaluation board decision."

"After a confrontation with a receptionist and police in 2007, one doctor intervened and "finally listened." He arranged for weekly therapy, proper medications, support groups, classes and a local recovery coordinator.

Today, Williams serves on the medical centerís veteransí mental health council.

NAMI is calling for greater outreach and coordination of services and family education within the VA system.

The VA sees only a quarter of the nationís 23 million veterans and many of those receive no mental health care.

Intergovernmental and public-private solutions are essential, as well as veteransí mental health courts to divert into treatment those who may encounter the criminal justice system, Williams said.

About NAMI

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

www.nami.org/veterans

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