VA patient dies by suicide at John Cochran VA Medical Center

FOX Files

ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Medical Examiner is investigating a reported suicide that happened in an unlikely place. It was reported Wednesday, Sept. 29 in the emergency room at the John Cochran VA Medical Center.

The next day, the Pentagon reported that more soldiers are suffering from mental distress and dying by suicide.

Last week, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby discussed said new data.

“Nobody wants to see the numbers that we reported out today,” he said.

A new report reveals a 15% increase in soldier deaths by suicide.

“This is a paramount challenge for the (DoD),” Kirby said. “We must redouble our efforts to provide all of our people with the care and the resources they need.”

Last week’s reported death by suicide inside the John Cochran VA Medical Center happened at 7:49 a.m. Wednesday. It’s considered an open case involving a 60-year-old man and it’s now under investigation by the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office.

Afghanistan war veteran and current Lincoln County Sheriff Rick Harrell recently talked about his concern over what he perceived to be increased deaths by suicide.

In July, he told us he’d lost two former colleagues to suicide just this year. Then in August, he described the heartbreak of seeing recent events from where he once served. The week of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, he told us, “A lot of hopes and dreams for the future of Afghanistan got crushed. There was no shortage. We worked a mission for women’s empowerment – to help women’s rights. Obviously, you know, that just got kicked right in the teeth.”

A Pentagon-funded study found veterans who tried to kill themselves and survived said one of their motivations was to end intense emotional distress.

Harrell said it helps him that he’s currently surrounded in his sheriff’s office by others who shared his war experience. They remind themselves what they did accomplish.

“We kept the internet on and we kept the schools open. That’s what we did. We raised an entire new generation of Afghan that had a lot of hopes and dreams for the future,” he said.

The St. Louis VA would not discuss the reported suicide in its hospital, but did send FOX 2 a statement:

Every veteran suicide is a tragedy. It is our sincere desire to provide the best care to every veteran. Our deepest sympathies go out to the veteran’s family and loved ones. VA St. Louis Health Care System remains deeply committed to addressing the needs of veterans at risk and in distress. All VA facilities, including ours, provide same-day primary and mental health care services to veterans who need them.

It is the second reported suicide in the last three years inside John Cochran. On the early morning of March 26, 2018, a 62-year-old shot himself in the hospital’s emergency room waiting area.

The St. Louis VA also provided resources as part of its statement, adding, “We encourage any veteran or family member concerned about a veteran’s mental health to contact the veteran’s crisis line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 838255. Trained professionals are also available to chat at www.veteranscrisisline.net. The lines are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs provides a full array of publicly available resources at https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/mentalhealth/suicide_prevention/index.asp

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