INDIANOLA, Iowa — Police say a local soldier is probably only alive today because of his friends and co-workers. They reached out to him after he posted what appeared to be a suicide note on social media Monday.
The posting was chilling. It read, “Over the last few years I’ve done so much damage to everything in my life. My body is broken and my mind is gone. I have hurt everyone I have loved. I really am not looking at my decision today as quitting, but as calling it a journey that has come to an end. Thank you to my family and my brothers in arms for all you have done. I hope one day people will remember me as a guy that loved his country and loved those close to him. It was a hell of a ride. Love ya all.”
The response was immediate. One person replied “Reach out, talk it out, let those who want to help listen.” and another said, “Call me brother, I’ve been where you are I can help you”
In all, a couple dozen people reached out as Indianola police were called. Fortunately the soldier decided to voluntarily check himself into the VA Hospital before police had to intervene.
“The military community actually reached out to him through Facebook and maybe some other social media avenues and they were able to encourage him to seek help.” said Lt. Rob Hawkins of the Indianola Police Department.
We are not releasing the soldier’s name out of respect for his privacy. But also because this story isn’t just about him…it’s about the 22-veterans that commit suicide every day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the hundreds or maybe thousands more that consider it.
“PTSD is real. there’s…it’s a big problem.” said Major Amy Price with the Iowa National Guard, “Up to 30-percent of our troops have PTSD is what the experts say.”
After deployment, the military works with veterans, trying to identify signs. “We do multiple behavioral health screenings. We do those on an annual basis.” Major Price said, “We screen for not just PTSD but also anxiety, depression, and substance abuse issues.”
When those issues are identified, soldiers are offered resources. But often the trouble is identifying problems in a culture where asking for help can be considered a weakness.
Michele Lukacik is a licensed mental health counselor at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center who specializes in PTSD. She is also a former service member. She says, after a soldier returns home, it’s important for family, friends and employers to look for signs of depression. “When all the dust settles, if there is a lot of withdrawing, kind of being off by themselves, avoiding things that they used to like or things that they used to enjoy. If they’re avoiding a lot of people or places that normally they would have wanted to go to. If they’re sleeping way too much or not sleeping at all. If they’re turning to alcohol or drugs.” Lukacik said.
Lukacik says it’s also important for returning soldiers to recognize when they are struggling. “Even just the struggles or the burdens of the daily life events and reacclimating to home life after feeling like you’ve missed out on a year of life.”