Trapped: For some veterans who attempt suicide, help feels out of reach

They're veterans who tried to end it all. They survived to tell us why. 

SEATTLE -- Every year since 2012, more U.S. military members have died from suicide than from combat. 

A veteran kills him- or herself every 72 minutes. That's according to a Department of Veteran Affairs estimate that  20 veterans a day take their own life

The following former service members did not become a statistic, but they did try to die. The Defense Department estimates that for every suicide, there were 10 attempts

We wanted to understand the reasons why our service members suffer, and the barriers to getting help. 

We asked, "Why didn't you seek help before your attempt? Or why wasn't the help you asked for effective?"

Here are their stories. 


Tony Dayton

Tony Dayton, 31, of Tacoma is an Army National Guard veteran who served from 2004 to 2009. The first time he tried to kill himself while deployed in Iraq, his gun jammed as he shoved it underneath his chin.  

"I was trying to connect with what was going on in my civilian life back home in a way that I couldn't connect. There was no possible way to go home and deal with the things in a fulfilling way that would have these things be solved or at least to where some sort of closure could happened, and I was just ready to end it," Dayton said. 

He was having marital problems with his wife, who was back home in Aberdeen. So in August 2006, he attempted to kill himself in Baghdad again. This time, he pulled the trigger.  

Now, he's president of the National Alliance To End Veteran Suicide

Listen To His Story: 

 


Kristina Sawyckyj

Kristina Sawyckyj, 46, is homeless in Seattle. She joined the U.S. Navy in 1987 and served as a hospital corpsman until 1992.

She said she was raped while in the service and suffers from chronic physical injuries that put her in a wheelchair. Sawycky can't escape her emotional injuries, too. 

"You're disgusting. You've been handled. You've been used by somebody else without your permission and the flashbacks of it happening over and over again just gets overwhelming. It's like your mind doesn't forget even though you try to forget those instances," she said.

Sawycky has attempted to kill herself four times. 

Now, she's enrolled in school at Seattle Central Community College. 

Listen To Her Story:


James Spivey

James Spivey, 47, of Kingston is a U.S. Navy veteran who served from 1988 to 1993. A doctor diagnosed the military sniper with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when he came back home from Saudi Arabia, where he was deployed during the first Persian Gulf War.  

The medication he took to help him cope with what he did in war made his flashbacks more vivid, he said. He attempted to end his own life in 1995.   

"You hear from almost every American in the world, 'Oh, I had a nightmare I was falling.' But you never see yourself land. The type of nightmares that we have, you see everything," Spivey said. 

Today, Spivey copes with his PTSD without medication. 

Listen To His Story: 

The Scope Of The Problem 

Hover over the graph below to find out how many active duty service members and veterans in Washington state take their own life each year.  

 

Nationwide, we've lost at least 3,482 active duty service members to suicide since 2001, according to an analysis of Department of Defense records updated July 30, 2016. 

 
NEED HELP?
You can reach help 24/7 at the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1. You can text to 838255. And you can start a confidential Veterans chat now by clicking here.
 

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