Lindsay Church: Military Mental Health – Journey from the Brink to Recovery

Derek Blumke
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This week on MIA Radio, we interview US Navy Veteran and Co-Founder of Minority Veterans of America, Lindsay Church. Lindsay served from 2008-2012 as a Cryptologic Technician Interpretive (Linguist). During her time in the service, she attended language school at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA where she learned Persian-Farsi. After spending two years at a cyber intelligence command, she left the Navy and returned home to Seattle.

Upon returning home, Lindsay attended the University of Washington where she earned her BA in Near Eastern Language and Civilization and Islamic Studies and an MA in International Studies – Middle East. At the University of Washington, Lindsay co-founded the office of Student Veteran Life, where she also served as the University Liaison for the Student Veterans of America Chapter there.

In 2017, Lindsay started the Minority Veterans of America to ensure there is a community of support around the underrepresented veterans so that we may see the true diversity of the U.S. military reflected in our veteran communities.

We discuss:

  • How Lindsay was enlisted in 2008 under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and served all but three months of her time in the Navy under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
  • That Lindsay is a third-generation Navy veteran with many family members also serving.
  • How during her Navy career she had multiple health issues arising from an inverted sternum, but a surgical procedure was botched and she experienced multiple complications, spending 5 days in ICU with a collapsed lung.
  • How within 18 months of enlisting she had been prescribed 16 different medications including painkillers, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
  • How she then had to endure a number of further surgeries but managed to complete language school in spite of the surgeries and complications.
  • Lindsay recalls being amazed that she is alive considering the cocktail of meds she was prescribed.
  • How she came to be stuck for six months at a medical barracks in San Diego.
  • That Lindsay got to a point in 2010 where she felt that she couldn’t go on.
  • That she was being transitioned between Klonopin, Effexor, Valium and Zoloft almost every month which led to intense suicidal thoughts and how she considered jumping from a fifth-floor window.
  • That she recalls asking for psychological support but instead only received more psychiatric drugs.
  • How Lindsay made the decision in 2010 to get off the antidepressants and then in 2011 came off the opioids and has refused painkillers since, finally in 2012 she came off the anti-anxiety drugs.
  • Lindsay says that it hurts to have realized that suicidal thoughts occurred during times of being switched between psychiatric medications, and changes her way of viewing past events in her life.
  • How Lindsay notes that it is very easy to get referred into psychiatry and onto the drugs but very difficult to find appropriate psychological support.
  • That Lindsay moved back to Seattle after leaving the Navy in 2012 and is thankful her mom is a veteran, as she helped her navigate the VA.
  • How Lindsay’s experiences both with the military medical system but also witnessing pervasive misogyny, racism and homophobia in the American Legion, led her to resign her position and to co-found the Minority Veterans of America.
  • How she found that female veterans are 2.2 times more likely to die by suicide than their civilian counterparts and LGBTQ veterans are 2 times more likely to die by suicide than their civilian counterparts.
  • That she now works with people of color, women, LGBTQ and religious and non-religious minorities, many of whom are disenfranchised from the veteran community, so the goal is to bring people into a supportive community to break the isolation, because isolation is a killer.
  • How important social engagement is to address the isolation felt by minority veteran communities.
  • That as regards herself, she is working on reaching the person that she was five years ago when she didn’t think that she belonged or that her story was unique, or even worthy of even being told.
  • That if readers want to know more they can visit MinorityVets.org which is a non-profit.
  • How she feels that we don’t have another three to five years to address the suicide epidemic amongst the veteran community, Congressional action is needed now.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Linsay you are a miracle, really. Forget the military honors, you should receive the highest civil medal that America can offer. You have fought behind enemy lines in your own country, staggering bravery and resilience!
    Derek you are euphemistically pretty good too!
    There are many who fight battles to the death for justice and truth, we are among them!
    Thank you so much for your lives and may your lives be full and long !

  2. Thank you Lindsay for sharing your story and OMG what an ordeal you have been through!!

    I commend you for your service and dedication in uniform, including over 400 hours of volunteer work. I was stunned to hear of the shoddy medical care you received and how you ended up having to endure 7 surgeries with still more to come. On top of that while you are in immense pain and trying to recover you were made to feel like you were malingering. That is really appalling! I really wish you all the best with the upcoming surgeries and can’t help but wonder if they will be removing the 9 ½ inch metal rod. In any case I hope the surgeries are a success and you will finally have some pain relief.

    Adding to the calamity is psychiatry – as you put it so well “Throws pills at everything rather than deal with what’s going on”. And of course psychiatrists never inform or advise the person of the horrible effects. Or as I learned, will chastise your for reporting effects or dismiss you as imagining them. Derek, I was very happy to hear you note there is a piece of legislation to move the requirement for consent from oral to signatory. I hope that passes and soon.

    And lastly I really commend you Lindsay for starting the Minority Veterans of America to help others in the minority community and to try reduce the tragic suicide epidemic. Wow, much praise and respect for your strength, resilience and compassion for others. Best of wishes and keep up the great work!