A sad woman in a military uniform with paint on her face.

What concerns should we have in regard to mental health in the military? Are servicemembers taken care of?

Sergeant Lee Ye-ram’s story exposes the devastating impact of mental health struggles within the military. It’s a call for urgent reforms to prioritize the well-being of those who serve. Stephanie Soo discussed the matter on her podcast Rotten Mango.

Read more to learn Sergeant Lee’s story and, sadly, how it’s not unique in the military.

Mental Health in the Military

Sergeant Lee Ye-ram’s story is one of immense heartbreak. After enduring a harrowing assault, the South Korean Air Force Sergeant took her own life, exposing deep-seated problems within the military culture and highlighting the matter of mental health in the military.

Sergeant Lee’s journey began with a marriage sparked by both love and practicality—a hope for expedited relocation under spousal policies. Yet, this light was quickly dimmed by the continued hardship and stifling environment she faced.

The assault’s aftermath took a heavy toll on Sergeant Lee’s mental health, requiring extensive counseling and recommended leave. But, even during this recovery period, her superiors inflicted further distress. They demanded meticulous movement tracking, ostensibly for COVID tracing, that intruded on her mental health appointments.

Seeking solace at a new base, Sergeant Lee instead encountered ostracism and unfair judgment. Labeled “troublesome,” she battled isolation while clinging to fleeting moments of joy with her fiancé. But, the dread of returning to the oppressive environment haunted her, as poignantly revealed in their messages.

Beyond Sergeant Lee’s personal tragedy, podcaster Stephanie Soo’s insightful commentary resonated on a national level. She highlighted the ingrained protectionism within the hierarchical and male-dominated military, sparking urgent calls for change to prevent such devastating outcomes.

Sergeant Lee’s family tributes paint a picture of enduring love and yearning. Her brother shared the emotional struggles they bear, longing for memories from the past. Her father and mother cling to the hope of future reunions, their words echoing the profound grief and unbreakable bond they share.

Sergeant Lee Ye-ram’s story demands both remembrance and action. Let her tragedy serve as a catalyst for meaningful reform, ensuring that our service members are protected and valued.


Sergeant Lee Ye-ram’s case raises awareness about mental health in the military and the need for open discussions, highlighting challenges faced by servicewomen specifically. These include systemic failures and a need for reform.

Sexual assault victims face severe mental health struggles such as PTSD and depression, requiring counseling and leave for recovery. Delays, skepticism, and victim isolation by superiors worsen mental health outcomes.

The story emphasizes the urgent need for reforms to better protect and support the mental health of servicemembers who experience sexual assault within the military hierarchy. Hope exists for reforms focused on improving mental health support and addressing systemic issues within the military, but the long-term effects on victims and their families must also be considered.

The podcast discussion deals with the issues surrounding Sergeant Lee’s story and doesn’t include a deeper exploration of broader mental health challenges faced by military personnel and systemic obstacles to seeking help.

Mental Health in the U.S. Military: Where Are We Now?

Retired and active duty service members need accessible and effective mental health support.

The military’s sexual assault problem is only getting worse

In 2021, 63% of male troops were confident that their chain of command would “treat them with dignity and respect” after reporting an assault, down from 82% in 2018.

Prosecuting Sexual Assault: A Comparison of Charging Decisions

The researchers examined the effect of victim, suspect, and case characteristics on prosecutors’ charging decisions in three types of sexual assault cases: those involving strangers, acquaintances, and intimate partners.

South Korean Military Struggles to Root Out Sexual Assaults

By Choe Sang-Hun. Oct. 15, 2021. SEOUL — The soldiers were driving back to the South Korean air force base after dinner and drinks on March 2. Master Sgt. Lee Ye-ram was in the back seat.

Women, Regardless: Understanding Gender Bias in U.S. Military

Male soldiers are afraid of lowered physical standards, increased sexual assault and harassment, reduced readiness, and destruction of the masculine military culture of brotherhood. However, much of what is discussed here goes beyond the thoughts and attitudes about women integrating into jobs in previously closed MOSs.

Mental Health in the Military: Lee Ye-ram’s Story Isn’t Unique

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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