Soldier hopes personal experience will help stop military suicid

Soldier hopes personal experience will help stop military suicides

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A south Austin veteran by the name of Andrew O'Brien is trying to stop the epidemic of suicides among active duty military and veterans.

He has valuable perspective on this issue. He tried to kill himself while he was still in the army. Now he's hoping his experience can make a difference.

Andrew O'Brien works for a medical supply company. He served honorably in the army, deployed to Iraq, was a gunner on convoys and survived in IED attack. Now he's an author. His short book is a guide for families to support returning vets.

"My goal is to help the family because they are the ones with him as the support group. If I can help them help him through it will be better because it's hard as a soldier. You can't get those images out of your mind," O'Brien said.

"Welcoming your soldier home" is a how to guide. How to help with the basics- nightmares… driving… counseling. It was born of O'Brien own attempt to kill himself when he was stationed in Hawaii in 2010.

"I went home that day and decided I was done. I was tired of putting up...it's like I went to war and came back to go to war again in my mind," O'Brien said.

He overdosed on anti-depressants and sleeping pills. Obviously he survived after having his stomach pumped.

"I'm lucky because most can't see they are lucky the next morning. They don't wake up to realize they made a mistake. It just ends for them. I don't want to keep hearing these numbers go up. I want to do something to lower it," he said.

And that's what the book is all about. He eventually wants to go full time to travel around and speak to vets and groups about the issue and his basic message: the families are key. The vets' war-time support group, the battle buddies are somewhere else so the vets is alone and they've been trained that asking for help is a sign of weakness. So the family needs to be there.

"Don't try to understand. Try to support because you can't understand only another vet can understand and that's ok," O'Brien said.

Now O'Brien is the first to say he isn't a counselor or mental health professional. He's just going with his gut.

This weekend he's doing his first speaking engagement in New Orleans and he speaks in Lakeway on March 10. For more information visit wyshproject.org.

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