Approximately 8,000 veterans are thought to die by suicide each year, an 11 percent increase from 2007. Problems readjusting to civilian life, along with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, can often trigger bouts of intense depression and lead veterans to end their own lives. In a conversation about a new Huffington Post special series, Invisible Casualties, Iraq War veteran Mike McMichael discussed his own experiences with PTSD, including his breaking point.
On Christmas Eve of his first year back from Iraq, McMichael and his wife Jackie were arguing about something trivial when he flew into a rage. "Me being my PTSD self, I was being very rude, and so she's getting upset and I'm getting upset and at a certain point, I blacked out," he explained to host Dena Takruri.
"When I actually came to, I was unaware of what I had done. What I had done was a few thousand dollars' damage to our house. I had gone on an absolute blind rage, which I have no knowledge of this, and I had just absolutely torn the house up. I tore the Christmas tree down, broke furniture, holes in the walls--it was horrible."
When McMichael woke up the next morning, he tried to piece together his night. "The next day when I'm kind of coming to and getting my wits about me, in my pocket--I'm no longer at home, mind you--I have a card, and it's from a sheriff deputy. I flip to the back of this card, not knowing where or remembering getting the card, and on the back it said cell number, personal home number, and at the bottom, in the officer's hand, it was 'next time, call me. I've been there.'"
Terrified by her husband's outburst, McMichael's wife had called the police. The sheriff who showed up to address the situation ultimately may have saved McMichael's life. "The sheriff deputy came out, and luckily it was a Vietnam veteran, and in his words, he told me that if another police officer would have came, he truly believes that they probably would have -- big chance they would have put me down that night. I mean, just had to pull their firearm and discharge it, because the things he was seeing of me when he came out, I was very bloody -- bleeding from my hands, bleeding from my head, just a lot of mess. And I was in an absolute rage."
"What he did was help to calm me down, got me safe, and he knew that jail would not be the right place for me. What he did was get another family member, my mother, turn me over to her on the grounds that she would get me the care."