The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 19, 2013

Mental health expert who helped suicidal soldiers took own life

MANKATO — Peter Linnerooth was skilled at staving off suicide among his fellow soldiers. But ultimately he couldn’t do the same for himself.

The former Minnesota State University psychology instructor and Army psychologist took a gun and ended his life Jan. 2 in his Mankato apartment. He was 42.

In a tragically ironic way, his death served to corroborate his personal mission: Getting the word out that too many in the military were suffering mightily from combat stress, not enough was being done to help them, and the caseloads for military mental-health specialists were overwhelming.

“The Army has been criminally negligent,” he told Time magazine in 2010.

Linnerooth himself struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, wrought by duty in Iraq several years ago that profoundly unsettled him.

MSU colleague Jeff Buchanan said the change in Linnerooth was readily apparent upon his return from Iraq — one facet of his personality in particular.

“Pete was quite sure of himself before, but he was much more critical of himself afterward.”

Dan Houlihan, Linnerooth’s graduate studies adviser at MSU, said paranoia gripped Linnerooth during his PTSD bouts, and he’d sit in his office compulsively running papers through a shredder.

“He got to where he didn’t trust anybody,” Houlihan said. “Man, what a waste. It’s a huge shame.”

Linnerooth was born in Minneapolis and graduated from a Rochester high school in 1988.

He was an assistant professor at MSU in 2008 and 2009 before going to California, then Nevada, to work with returning soldiers, especially those with PTSD, at Veterans Administration medical centers. 

Army medic Jedidiah Myers dubbed Linneroth a “wizard” in reference to the lives he saved with his counseling.

Houlihan surmises that Linnerooth’s tipping point came when he lost his job at the Nevada VA facility over a state psychologist’s licensure issue.

“I think the thing that really threw him was when they essentially fired him.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News