Family says air base in Japan denied mental health guidance for spouse before suicide

Trevor Balint, 34, went missing at Yokota Air Force Base in western Tokyo in the early hours of February 1, 2021. (Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A spouse who committed suicide last year at this western Tokyo airlift hub has been denied a referral to the base’s mental health clinic despite a history of attempts of suicide, according to his family.

An Airman with base security on Feb. 16, 2021, discovered the body of Trevor Balint, 34, a native of Hubbard, Ohio, in a storage unit in the housing tower where he and his wife, Britni Balint, a Department of Defense civilian programmer and analyst, lived at Yokota Air Base. Trevor Balint had been missing for two weeks.

Balint attempted suicide four times between 2010 and 2018, according to the death investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, which cited his medical and mental health records. Her mother-in-law, Denise Simion Mott, of Brookfield, Ohio, disputed the report and said there was no attempt in 2018.

But those same records show that on April 7, 2020, Balint was considered an “intermediate risk,” with passive thoughts of suicide, Mott told Stars and Stripes via Facebook Messenger on June 8.

A month later, on May 6, 2020, he requested mental health care from the 374th Medical Group but was denied because the COVID-19 pandemic had restricted access to health care on base, Mott said. .

“There should have been more medical help available to Trevor, especially since he outright asked for help,” she wrote. “We all adored Trevor unconditionally and would never want anyone else to go through such a terrible tragedy.”

A base spokesperson said the 374e Yokota Medical Group imposed safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect patients and staff, but never denied mental health services to anyone who needed them.

“During this time, the Mental Health Clinic has worked hard to provide appropriate services to all of our patients based on their needs,” 1st Lt. Danny Rangel wrote via email Friday to Stars and Stripes. “Services for people with acute psychiatric distress, suicidal thoughts or other safety concerns have never been affected or delayed.”

The OSI report did not say whether Balint had sought help immediately before his death, nor mentioned the April 2020 risk assessment described by Mott.

“(A) access to mental health services for acute security issues has never been restricted by any class of recipient,” Rangel said Thursday via email.

He said walk-in care was still available at the base mental health clinic during office hours or at the after-hours urgent care clinic. Rangel said he was prohibited from discussing Balint’s medical history by federal law limiting the release of medical information.

He said other mental health care options include primary care, military and family life consultants, chaplains and integrated base-wide mental health programs. The medical group has also partnered with off-base mental health clinics to support Yokota’s population who are not on active duty, Rangel said.

Trevor Balint disappeared on February 1, 2021, and a ground and air search of the base and surrounding area revealed only his wallet, keys and phone strewn on a neighbour’s doorstep, the investigation says. of the OSI.

A medical examiner ruled that Balint died by suicide between February 8 and February 10, 2021, but the date could vary by two days because the examiner lacked information on temperature and humidity in the storage unit, indicates the report.

Balint’s wife said she was still troubled that authorities had taken so long to find her missing husband.

“It worries me that no one on the base finds this a disturbing display of base security,” Britni Balint told Stars and Stripes by Facebook Messenger on June 8. many places where [the] base could have done something to change the outcome of this situation. They had five to nine days to figure out he was struggling and provide him with help, and they failed.

Balint in a 2017 email spoke of suicide and “how he didn’t fit into the world”, according to the inquest report completed 12 days after the body was found. The Youngstown, Ohio, Vindicator obtained the report through a Freedom of Information Act request and provided a copy to Stars and Stripes.

Yokota investigators also reviewed a Facebook conversation with someone, whose name was redacted, from 2011 to 2018 on Balint’s Acer laptop, but found nothing about “suicidal ideation, depression or suicide attempts,” the report said. Investigators were unable to obtain his phone records because it was not a criminal case, according to the OSI report.

Trevor Balint was a brilliant person and a talented musician who earned a Ph.D. in physics in his twenties, but found himself without a job or friends in Yokota, according to his mother and the report. The report says he drank to cope with feelings of inadequacy.

“He had many, many friends all over the United States as well as in England, where they were stationed before Japan,” his mother, Kathy Balint, of Hubbard, Ohio, said via Facebook Messenger on June 8. “Trevor was smart…talented…funny, kind, compassionate and his smile could light up a room.

People who need urgent mental health care in Yokota can contact the mental health clinic directly at DSN 225-3566 or through the appointment line at DSN 225-8864. The emergency department is open after normal business hours.

For more information on available mental health options, the AF Connect app has a comprehensive list of resources and contact information under the ‘Agencies’ tab.

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