On March 31, Clay Hunt, a marine hero and humanitarian, took his own life. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America paid tribute to Hunt in a moving post detailing the service and volunteer work of this 28-year-old Purple Heart recipient and veteran of two wars. Clay Hunt had served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he returned home he had a new battle to deal with when he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Hunt had survived his tours of duty but at least four of his friends did not. The Houston Chronicle reports that he had a difficult time adjusting to civilian life following his honorable discharge in 2009. Hunt had quit going to college, got a divorce and was having suicidal thoughts. In an attempt to turn things around and use his experience for good, Hunt turned to volunteerism to help others and especially fellow veterans. He was part of a non-profit suicide prevention campaign urging veterans to reach out for help. Hunt was also involved in building bikes for injured veterans and traveled to Haiti and Chile to help disaster victims.
Despite the meaning and purpose Hunt felt in being involved in these humanitarian efforts, it was not enough to combat the internal struggle he was feeling inside. We may never know exactly what he was feeling to cause him to take his own life.
In order to gain some perspective I called upon a veteran to offer his thoughts about this tragedy. You may know Paul from MyDepressionConnection. I had interviewed Paul for my post about Mental Health and the Military. Paul is a Vietnam War veteran and knows about the difficulties of coming back to civilian life firsthand.
Here is Paul's take on what Hunt may have been feeling:
“See, he was always alone, inside, no matter that he found purpose with the bikes, by working in Haiti. He always returned to the loneliness... the guilt of surviving while friends stopped forever, at age 19.
He couldn't reconcile his escaping death, and poverty, the misery he saw everywhere. He wanted to help change things, to make this world better, he could not overcome the enormity of hopelessness he saw everywhere.
These guys are trained to save the world; the services put the welfare of the world on your shoulders. They make you feel responsible to solve people's problems. I think he was so depressed that it drove him to leave, rather than accept that he really didn't have to solve everything.
I think it was just too much for him.”
If you or a loved one is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder please do reach out for help. You do not have to suffer or be alone in this. One organization which helps veterans with PTSD is the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Foundation of America.
For more information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder please refer to the following Health Central articles: