There's been some talk about Dan Choi's mental health issues (hope he takes care of himself first and gets better), but there's another gay* soldier whose mental health we should be talking about.
Private Bradley Manning, the whistleblower who gave, among other things, the diplomatic cables to Wikileaks that everyone's discussing now, is being held in solitary confinement. Glenn Greenwald writes:
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not "like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole," but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.
In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America's Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything. And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig's medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.
Just by itself, the type of prolonged solitary confinement to which Manning has been subjected for many months is widely viewed around the world as highly injurious, inhumane, punitive, and arguably even a form of torture. In his widely praised March, 2009 New Yorker article -- entitled "Is Long-Term Solitary Confinement Torture?" -- the surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande assembled expert opinion and personal anecdotes to demonstrate that, as he put it, "all human beings experience isolation as torture." By itself, prolonged solitary confinement routinely destroys a person's mind and drives them into insanity. A March, 2010 article in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law explains that "solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture."
Greenwald points out that Manning hasn't been convicted of anything. Even if he had, this sort of treatment shouldn't be allowed. There's no legal reason for him to be in solitary confinement as he has no history of violence, but then that's not the real reason he's there.
These sorts of techniques aren't about maintaining order in prison, nor are they, directly, a form of punishment. The goal is something more concrete - to keep him from doing anything with his life afterwards and to make an example of him to other potential whistleblowers, to other soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who might realize the incredible cruelty and inhumanity of what they're doing and speak out about it.
These sorts of torture techniques like solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, and extreme disorientation are about changing the way the brain works and displacing one's identity. They don't actually end up making a new person out of someone; instead they render people completely dysfunctional with paranoia, depression, uncontrollable anger, and psychosis, even after they're released from prison.
That's part of why they have to do this to Manning before he has a trial: if he's eventually found to have done nothing illegal, then they won't have any control over what he does outside of prison. But when they get through with him, he won't be able to do much more.
*There is some evidence that he's transgender from chat logs that Wired hasn't even completely released. I haven't read anything about him actually identifying as trans or as a woman, but he does identify as gay and has/had a boyfriend.