US Marine and Army National Guard Combat veteran, Brandon Ketchum had been seeing a psychiatrist for over a year to get treatment for his severe PTSD and his addiction problems that resulted from it. Brandon’s girlfriend said she had seen him struggle with his issues that had gradually gotten worse and worse. He began self-medicating with painkillers and eventually heroin to try and block out the haunting traumatic flashbacks. “He had relapsed and was abusing drugs and he just was in a bad place,” said Kristine Nichols, Brandon’s girlfriend of three years who lived with him in Davenport, Iowa.
Brandon had been flagged as as suicide risk on at least two prior occasions. Brandon reached out to his girlfriend, asking if she thought it was a good idea for him to seek inpatient care for his issues. She told him that if he felt that it was necessary, then yes, definitely seek some type of additional medical help. Brandon decided that this was the right thing to do, and in a last ditch effort to try and save his life, he drove to the Iowa City VA Medical Center, where his psychiatrist was located. Upon arriving, Brandon begged to be admitted to the psychiatric ward due to what he described as “serious mental issues.”
Unfortunately, the VA told him no. After the long drive back home, Brandon expressed his anger in one final chilling Facebook post: “I REQUESTED THAT I GET ADMITTED TO 9W (PSYCH WARD) AND GET THINGS STRAIGHTENED OUT. I TRULY FELT MY SAFETY AND HEALTH WERE IN JEOPARDY, AS I DISCUSSED WITH THE DOC. NOT ONLY DID I GET A ‘NO’, BUT THREE REASONS OF NO BASED ON ME BEING NOT F***** UP ENOUGH. AT THIS POINT I SAY, ‘WHY EVEN TRY ANYMORE?’ THEY GAVE UP ON ME, SO WHY SHOULDN’T I GIVE UP ON MYSELF? RIGHT NOW, THAT IS THE ONLY VIABLE OPTION GIVEN MY CIRCUMSTANCES AND FRAME OF MIND.”
“I CAME HOME FROM WAR, ONLY TO BE LOST IN THE FOG OF ANOTHER WAR, A WAR WITHIN MYSELF.” – BRANDON KETCHUM
Sadly, just a few hours after posting this status update, Brandon took his own life. Brandon served two tours as a Marine Combat Engineer, where his job was to clear roadside bombs. After experiencing several explosions, he suffered from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) as well as severe PTSD. After his Marine service was finished, he enlisted in the Army National Guard and did one tour in Afghanistan. His traumatic experiences definitely warranted extensive mental health care, but his serious issues were blatantly disregarded by the institution which was supposed to help him.
On average, there are 20 veterans every day that lose their battle within their minds and result to suicide. If anyone in this country is deserving of IMMEDIATE help when they reach out for it, it is the ones who selflessly put their lives in imminent danger to protect our great country. It is absolutely tragic and shameful that so many of these veterans are lost in the cracks of the system. Even one soldier taking his own life is too many. It is imperative that we find a solution to this horrifying epidemic of suicide taking place among our military communities.