Anonymous app offers support to veterans suffering mental health issues

Author: Catherine Herridge / CBS
Published: Updated:
Bill Mulder. Courtesy of Sydney Mulder

Bill Mulder was one of the nation’s most decorated Navy SEALs. His wife, Sydney Mulder, said he was a great father and dedicated to his SEAL team.

“Bill was incredibly proud,” she said. “He loved his job.”

But after a grueling mission to Afghanistan in 2009, Mulder said her husband changed. He was angry, he started drinking excessively and didn’t want any help.

“He felt if he opened up and if he were honest and truthful, he would jeopardize his career,” Mulder said. “‘I’ll get kicked out. I’ll lose my security clearance.'”

Six months after he left the Navy, he called his wife on FaceTime and put a gun to his head.

“And I said, ‘You’re scaring me. I’m scared.’ And I heard a gunshot and I saw what I saw. And then the phone — it went black. And I threw the phone on the ground,” Mulder said.

Nearly 20% of service members who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq have post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, according to a RAND Corporation study. But only half who need treatment actually seek it. The Department of Veterans Affairs said each day 17 veterans take their own lives.

At the time of her husband’s suicide, Mulder’s brother, William Negley, a former CIA officer, was developing Sound Off, an app that would let those who serve reach out for help anonymously. It uses encryption to protect the conversations, Negley said.

John, who asked to remain anonymous, is one of the veterans who downloaded the app, which put him in touch with a therapist.

“I do think the Sound Off app saved my life,” said John, whose team cleared roadside bombs in Afghanistan. “If a soldier or a service member wishes to advance their career and stay in the service to seek mental help I think is a barrier still.”

Negley said the app has helped 200 veterans and he wants to expand.

Four years after her husband’s death, Mulder still wears the watch he had on when he died. His wedding ring is clipped to it. She said it’s a reminder that her family is still healing.

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