Herndon: Donald Trump is drawing scorn from veterans' groups after he suggested that soldiers who suffer from mental health issues might not be as strong as those who don't.
Trump was speaking at an event organised by the Retired American Warriors political action committee on Monday when he was asked about his commitment to faith-based programs aimed at preventing suicides and helping soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other issues.
"When you talk about the mental health problems — when people come back from war and combat, and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks 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," he said.
"And they see horror stories. They see events that you couldn't see in a movie, nobody would believe it," he added.
The comment drew condemnation from critics as well as veterans' groups that have been working for years to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues in an effort to encourage soldiers to seek treatment.
David Maulsby, the executive director of the Texas-based PTSD Foundation of America, told The Associated Press that, at first, he hoped Trump's remarks had been taken out of context. But after watching a recording of the exchange, he said the Republican nominee's words were detrimental to veterans struggling with PTSD symptoms.
"At the very least, it's a very poor choice of words. PTSD is basically a rewiring of the brain as the result of trauma or prolonged trauma. That is not a reflection of a person's strength, character, stamina — any of that," Maulsby said.
"Our veterans who are struggling with post-traumatic stress as a result of their combat need to be encouraged to seek help, and not be told they are weak or deficient in character in any way, shape or form," he said.
Zach Iscol, a Marine veteran and executive director of the nonprofit Headstrong Project, which helps provide free care for veterans suffering from PTSD, said Trump's comments weren't "just wrong, they're dangerous."