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Moulton reveals he sought help for PTSD, calls for better mental health care for military

US Representative Seth Moulton in February.
US Representative Seth Moulton in February. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/Globe staff

Representative Seth Moulton, a former Marine Corps officer from Massachusetts who is running for president, on Tuesday called for annual mental health check-ups for active-duty military and veterans and touched on his own experience with managing post-traumatic stress after returning home from the Iraq War.

In a statement, Moulton, who served four tours in Iraq and was twice decorated for heroism, said he supports a mandatory counseling session for everyone returning from a combat deployment within two weeks of their arrival at home. He advocated for annual mental health check-ups “just like annual physicals” for those in the military and veterans.

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The Salem Democrat also revealed in a Tuesday tweet that when he returned from Iraq he “sought help for managing post-traumatic stress.”

“I’m glad I did,” he said in the tweet. “Today, I’m sharing my experience because I want people to know they’re not alone and they should feel empowered to get the treatment they need.”

In an interview published by Politico on Tuesday, Moulton also spoke about his experience after his combat deployments, telling the outlet, “I had some particular experiences or regrets from the war that I just thought about every day, and occasionally I’d have bad dreams or wake up in a cold sweat.”

Moulton continued, “But because these experiences weren’t debilitating — I didn’t feel suicidal or completely withdrawn, and I was doing fine in school — it took me a while to appreciate that I was dealing with post-traumatic stress and I was dealing with an experience that a lot of other veterans have.”

Speaking at a Lynn town hall on Tuesday, Moulton said one memory that has stayed with him is driving past an injured Iraqi boy lying in the middle of the road without stopping to help him, the Associated Press reported.

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Moulton said stopping to take care of the child would have endangered the lives of his entire platoon.

The image of that boy, he said, is ‘‘something that haunted me every single day when I came home. Frankly, every single day that I was there.’’

Moulton said he can’t put into words how much therapy has helped him.

Moulton is in his third term representing Massachusetts’ sixth congressional district. He announced his bid for the Democratic nomination for president last month.

According to the Tuesday statement released by his campaign, Moulton wants to fill all mental health vacancies at the US Department of Veteran Affairs and “adopt a more holistic approach to treatment, including alternative therapies like mindfulness, exercise, and cannabis.”

Earlier this month, Moulton re-filed a package of bills in Congress that would push the VA to embrace medical marijuana.

Additionally, Moulton wants to double the number of Department of Defense mental health professionals and increase that department’s mental health budget by $500 million, according to his campaign.

He also supports funding an ad campaign for veterans’ families to recognize mental health symptoms, fund annual mental health screenings for every high school student in the country, and establish 511 as a national mental health crisis hotline, according to the Tuesday statement.

Asked how Moulton would pay for such a plan, a campaign spokesman said in an e-mail “closing loopholes in the corporate tax code would pay for this program ten times over.”

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He added, “We should be able to find $500 million to take care of the veterans who risked their lives fighting for us overseas. And we should be able to find 2 billion to make sure our kids get the help they need in high school.”


Dan Adams of Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.