A veteran dies in Mankato

A Minnesota State University student shot himself to death in the university library on Monday afternoon and, for the most part, the news was met with a shrug. If there’s one thing we’ve gotten used to in Minnesota, it’s shootings. To the extent most media cared, it was only to point out that no other students were in danger.

His name was Timothy Lee Anderson of Mankato. He was 27 years old. He was a philosophy major.

He was also a veteran of the war in Iraq, the Mankato Free Press reported (link fixed).

Incredibly, on the paper’s website, editor Joe Spears had to defend why that fact is important.

We present facts. He was a veteran. This is a huge national issue. It’s relevant that he was a veteran. We can look into this further and will. Chantel is correct. There is no connection stated right now. You are interpreting that. This is a national issue that The Free Press takes very seriously.

We will explore all avenues. Suicide is an emotional issue. We can appreciate that. But to stick our head in the sand, as we interpret what you suggest, is something we will never do. And quite frankly, I’ve dealt with suicide in my personal life so I do not accept your suggesting we are somehow “profiting”

The article doesn’t state that Anderson’s death and his military service were related. But several readers used their allotment of daily outrage to protest the inclusion of military service.

Maybe the two are connected. Maybe the two aren’t. But it’s undeniable that systemically, the link is proven.

Twenty-two veterans a day take their own lives. Two out of every five veterans knows a vet who has taken his or her own life, the New York Times says today.

A bill to address veterans suicide is heading to the White House after passing both the House and Senate, with just about every congressperson saluting it, just a month or so after it was blocked.

And it includes a provision extending by one year the period under which returning late-stage combat troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan can obtain Veterans Affairs health care without first proving a service-related disability. That part applies to troops who left active duty from Jan. 1, 2009, to Jan. 1, 2011; normally veterans have only five years of access to the care for conditions not medically proven to have been attributable to their service.

Government data shows that the suicide rate for male veterans who are enrolled in Veterans Affairs health care fell slightly from 2006 to 2010, while the rate for other veterans rose. Yet among male veterans ages 18 to 24, the suicide rate for even those enrolled jumped from 46.1 per 100,000 in 2009 to 79.1 per 100,000 two years later. Since its start in 2007, the department’s Veterans Crisis Line — 1-800-273-8255 — has taken nearly 1.4 million calls and helped make more than 42,000 rescues of veterans contemplating suicide.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato.

Archive: A Veteran’s Death, the Nation’s Shame (NY Times).

Brian Williams’ sacrifice (NewsCut).

  • MrE85

    I do take some offence when a murder/shooting suspect’s military service is cited when their is no indication there was any connection whatsoever to the crime, but this is different. The rate that our young veterans are killing themselves — especially the men — is horrifying.

  • Jack

    Think about it. A good percentage of our servicemen who are activated range from 18 to 30 and are single. They leave our American culture and are submerged into a completely different culture. They have no say in any of this, as they are now owned by our government. They are exposed to horrific, negative experiences every day, away from any source of nurturing. Every day they experience this and some experience this for years in succession. If they show any sign of emotional pain, they are told “they can’t hack it” and they get ostracized from their peers, their troops for not fitting in. This is mental trauma. Then they come home and are expected to go about business as usual (well their usual business for the last couple years has been horrific). What is not to get about it? This type of exposure goes completely against who we were designed to be, loving beings.
    No, I am not Anit-American, or unpatriotic infact I am very much FOR the people. I am for all of the people.

    • Jack

      My apologies, servicemen was a blanket term that includes women as well.

    • Kevin

      There is a price to pay for your freedom.

  • KTFoley

    Here is today’s Washington Post piece on the source & accuracy of that 22 veteran suicides/day figure.

    I offer this with the trust that thoughtful people know better to interpret an interest in meaningful data as a lack of support for the underlying issue.


  • Al

    It’s absolutely relevant that he was a vet, given disproportionately high suicide rate among vets. We need to take better care of our vets, period.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    (The link goes to an article in the Austin paper that doesn’t mention he was a veteran.)

  • crystals

    It IS incredible that the editor had to offer an explanation, but kudos to him for doing it and doing it without going down the dreaded we’re-sorry-if-we-offended-you, that-wasn’t-our-intent path.

  • Nate Lehman

    …. some people go there and sacrifice their minds and are never the same again

  • Ollulia

    These stories are horrific and now all too familiar and common. I think I understand both sides of the issue – not adding the person’s vet status to preclude people from making judgments/assumptions, versus posting it as a way to bring awareness to the issue of mental health care in veterans (and the general population). In this case, I fall on the side of posting his status – as a Veteran of our Armed Forces and is due a level of respect that includes we care for him upon his return from duty – physical AND mentally. If we don’t publicize the link, then – as frequently happens – people are not aware of the link between the horrors of war and it’s affect on people who come back from it. I wish his family and friends strength, comfort, and peace, and thank them for sharing their son to protect and serve our country.

  • FarmGirlWithPitchfork

    MSU has a Veterans Resource Center that is staffed. Resources include information for referral for Mental Health Resources for veterans. However, if the veteran doesn’t seek help, the resources may not be helpful. Yes, suicide reports have become too frequent, and maybe many of us are becoming conditioned to them. But I’m offended by “shrugged” in the MPR title on Facebook, since it seems to imply no one cares. Some of us care, Unfortunately, we’re not all in a position to be helpful to a student veteran in crisis. http://www.mnsu.edu/registrar/veterans.html

    • The phrase “for the most part” implies that not everyone shrugged.

      Maybe if he’d taken his own life out of a Byerly’s the story would be different.

      But the reality of the story is the reality of the story.

  • vet77

    Whether it’s related to his service or not, the fact that he was a veteran is just as relevant as saying he was a student at the university. As far as I take it, they were simply providing some background on the person in the story. Any news piece is going to be much less sensitive and personal if it just reads “some guy did something”

  • MsEnglish101

    I’m grateful that conversations are happening about this. To suggest that reporters shouldn’t mention his military service for fear of conflating it with the reason for his suicide is to willfully subscribe to the notion that such matters should be taboo. Nothing ever gets solved by refusing to talk about it. I was teaching a class in the building next to the library when this happened. When we got the alert, my students were shocked and saddened for about three minutes, but first, they were afraid for their own safety. Two days later, they all seemed to have forgotten. I attribute this obliviousness to our culture’s tendency to gloss over major problems and sensationalize lesser ones. My students can pretend it isn’t happening because they don’t see footage of combat on the news like the college kids during the Vietnam war did. My heart breaks for this kid and his family.

  • Kevin

    What if he also worked at McDonald’s? Would that fact be relevant too? Or if he had a family, or anything else UNRELATED TO THE INCIDENT?

  • Michael ‘Fish’ Kaye

    Applied Suicide Intervention Training is valuable and required for many of our military today. https://www.livingworks.net/programs/asist/
    Sit down with someone and practice by looking them in the eye and asking:
    “Are you thinking about hurting yourself? Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
    There is no way to predict when you will find yourself in the position of caregiver.
    Talk to them, and listen.
    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 (800) 273-8255

  • Brian Forbes Colgate

    The rate of suicide amongst our Veterans — especially the young ones — is horrific. Here in Canada the number of those killed in Afghanistan has now been bypassed by far by the number of deaths by suicide. A serving soldier and acquaintance took his life recently and it was reported at his funeral that he had reached out for help from the medical system and been turned away. Our politicians don’t understand what they have done to these young men and women, but even more sadly those in our military structures who have not been there either don’t understand, or don’t give it these men and women the attention they need and deserve. Requiescat in pace, Timothy.