My response to Dr. Gorton’s “off yourself” comment

[Note: I don’t intend for this blog to jump into the fray of debate. It’s designed to be a place that can somehow help the healing process for Veterans. But this news story touches a nerve for many Veterans, so I felt it appropriate to respond. -Brian]

Recently, just like many people tend to do these days, a guy got into a debate about gun control on Facebook. As expected, the participants traded comments back and forth. The guy happened to be a veteran. A Purple Heart recipient, in fact.

But it was the response by another debater that has people so upset. The other guy, identified as Gregg Gorton, simply typed “Off yourself, please.”

The story is here.

I expected the comment to have been made by someone juvenile, someone uneducated, and someone who perhaps doesn’t have any experience with mental health issues.

Further research revealed that the commenter works for the Veterans Administration. In fact, he is Doctor Gregg Gorton, psychiatrist whose whole job, presumably, is to help Veterans heal from their unseen wounds.

Personally, I try to have an attitude of erring on the side of grace.  That is, I try to give the benefit of the doubt and assume that whatever happened was a human mistake. However, suggesting that someone should “off” themselves is a serious thing, and is never acceptable… for anyone at any time. But it’s absolutely deplorable that someone who is supposed to treat mental illness and prevent suicide would be so careless.

Gorton has since apologized, and said that he regrets his comment. “It’s just one of those moments you’d rather take back in your life,” he told The Associated Press. “I’ve worked 30 years to treat psychiatric patients. I teach about suicide prevention. That’s not me.”

Thing is, it was him who commented. People read it in real life.

What we can learn is that our words have weight. I may not be a psychiatrist, and I don’t work for the VA. But as a blogger and (more importantly) a veteran who cares deeply about Veterans’ issues, I know that regardless of how his employer deals with him, Dr. Gorton has learned a tough lesson about social media.