Veteran suicides down in most recent report; local Army vet discusses his struggles

DAYTON — The latest report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shows suicides involving veterans were down by nearly 400 from 2018 to 2019, but while the numbers have dropped the help that may be needed by some veterans re-entering daily life from years of service is still needed.

“A lot of times when they do come back or they get out of the military that’s a transitional state. Their whole world is turned upside down,” said Karon Wolfe, suicide prevention coordinator with the Dayton VA. “I really think that the mental health stigma is coming down a little bit.”

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Michael England is a U.S. Army veteran who has lived for the last decade in the Miami Valley and even works at the Dayton VA himself to help other veterans. He said his path to recovery after considering suicide was long and many times throughout he did not think he needed help.

England served in the U.S. Army from 1986 until 1992.

“It was pretty good for the most part,” England told News Center 7′s Candace Price. “After’s just like basically doing a job.”

But, it was during that time England said he started drinking heavily.

“You go out and you say ‘oh it’s social’, then it becomes more than that,” England said.

He said that his depression and anxiety got worse and after he left the Army that’s when his real struggle began.

“I just wasn’t happy with my life. I didn’t think I was a great father. I thought my family would be better off,” England said.

England planned his suicide and his lowest moment came when he had a gun pointed at his head, but a close friend who happened to come home early caught him in the act.

England now has a message for other veterans who may suffer from mental illness.

“We’re all tough guys, but it’s not a weakness,” England said. “You earned this by serving your country so don’t be afraid to go to the VA.”

England said support from his family has helped him tremendously in his recovery.

There are resources available to help people who are in crisis or struggling with thoughts of suicide:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255
  • Veterans Crisis Line - 1-800-273-8255 Press 1 or Text 838255
  • Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center Suicide Prevention Team 937-268-6511 Ext. 2675