A VA Psychiatrist Reflects on Suicide Among Combat Vets

Photo courtesy of Paving the Road Back.

After watching the short film, “Good Night, Ryan”, Rod Deaton writes: … I respond to Ryan’s story: as a man, a psychiatrist, a husband, father, son.  Who happens to work for the VA.

Deaton, a VA psychiatrist, created the blog: Paving the Road Back – dedicated to serving those who have served in combat. On Twitter, he writes that he works to help other professionals better serve the emotional and spiritual needs of combat veterans.

From his recent blog post: In Memory of Ryan

I do not in any way speak for the VA, DoD, or any other branch of the government.  My thoughts–my reactions–are of a man who happens to be trained as a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist, who happens to be a husband and a father and a son, who happens to have the privilege  of working with men and women who have been so willing to give of themselves–and who happens to work for the VA.

Deaton writes about his thoughts – as a psychiatrist – his observations and his thinking during sessions with combat veterans.  But, after watching the Ryan film and reading the op-ed, “A Veteran’s Death, the Nation’s Shame,” Deaton was at a loss:

… I can only be silenced before Ryan’s mother Cherry DeBrow, his brother Michael Yurchison, his best friend Steve Schaeffer.  Though in a sense I can feel their hearts via their voices, their faces, in the deepest sense I haven’t a clue.  It’s precisely because I have my son that I cannot imagine life without him, my life without my daughters.  I don’t “go there” because I can’t go there.  One only goes there when, like Ms. DeBrow, one is there.

He writes that it is his duty and opportunity as a VA psychiatrist to work with combat veterans on managing emotions “… we have to open ourselves as much as we can to all the terror, all the rage, all the shame that comes our way–that comes the veteran’s way 24/7.”

When I’m with a veteran in the worst of his or her pain, when the War threatens to engulf us both, right there in the middle of that cubbyhole I call an office, I always go in my head to the same image, the same experience.  I feel a steel rod ram itself right down my middle, implant itself in the ground beneath me, anchor me in some semblance of a here-and-now reality to allow both of us get through the next five minutes–what am I saying, the next five seconds.

He closes with this message to family and friends on Ryan’s apparent suicide:

Ms. DeBrow, Mr. Yurchison, Mr. Schaeffer: I can never fully understand what happened, never even begin to understand what you’re going through.  I can only offer you this: I will remember Ryan.  I will keep doing all I can so that other mothers, brothers, buddies need not hurt as you have.  That I can promise you.

May God be with you.

You can read the full blog post, In Memory of Ryan, HERE.


2 Responses

  1. Ms. O’Brien,

    Thank you so much for this post. I am honored that you chose it. I appreciate all the work you do bringing together so much information. I hope our paths can cross some day.


    Rod Deaton

  2. […] A VA Psychiatrist Reflects on Suicide Among Combat Vets (offthebase.wordpress.com) […]

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