Updated: Nov 15, 2018
Jerodd L. Edwards-Burton
Veteran of the United States Army
Time in Service: 7.5 years
Since becoming a (legal) adult, at the age of 18, my life has been dedicated to public service. I spent the better part of a decade in the United States Army, from Missouri to Korea, and finally Fort Bragg. I’ve trained soldiers from the brand new Private to my replacement in the CBRN Room as the incoming NCO. However, my time in the military wasn’t all flowers and rainbows.
I struggled with depression at 18, which only got worse. At the age of 19, I made my first suicide attempt, because my depression was so bad. I didn’t understand why, or even what was going on. I was placed on watch, putting my roommate in an uneasy position, but he helped me out. Prior to going to Korea, I made my second attempt at suicide, and pushed my orders back from February to June, until I was properly cleared by the Psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder. I was able to hide my “weakness” of mental health for the next year in a half, until I redeployed stateside to Fort Bragg, and once again, became a victim of my own thinking.
Family and Friends
My transition out of the military was hard, but the only consolation I had was my wife. She helped me transition out, knowing it would be extra stress with less finances, because I was getting retired. One of the hardest challenges of getting out of the military was finding a job where my love for public service and helping people would converge. That’s when I found one of my greatest coping mechanisms, which, incidentally, was being in the service of other people. After sitting down with my VA Psychiatrist and outlining a plan, I knew that the only way I could get over my Major Depressive Disorder (aside from medication) was to continue to be in the service of others, and healthcare wasn’t the route I planned to take, but it was indeed the route that took me.
I graduated from EMT school, and started working for Cumberland County EMS and Johnston Ambulance Service and EMS. I was able to cope with, and even deal with the issues of Social Anxiety and Depression, but I still had to deal with the issues of PTSD, which was an underlying issue I never knew I had. I never knew I had PTSD…until I had a patient die in my arms. The support from this ordeal came from my wife, being able to express to her what was going on at that time, and how my mind still played out the events of holding that patient in my arms.
As a Veteran, it is extremely important for our families to offer support, especially in dealing with issues of mental health. As a Veteran, it is so important to have our families understand that some of the issues we face aren’t always evident. Some of the things we go through or have gone through are not always things we can talk about.
Advice to Veterans
I would encourage any Veteran who reads this who finds themselves struggling with PTSD or any other issues of mental health, to realize that it’s okay not to be okay. Get help. I see a Psychologist every month and a half, and the sessions have been extremely helpful. I encourage you to realize that sometimes our vulnerability is what makes us human, and it’s not a weakness to show emotion.
Transition from Military Life to Civilian Life
One of the great challenges many Vets face when transitioning out of the military is finding a job that fulfills them and promotes Esprit de Corps or the ability to help others, so find a job that does just that. I found that type of job in healthcare, losing myself in the service of others, and being able to have unity among all the other healthcare providers.
One of the resources I have used in the past when I felt overwhelmed by my depression is the Veteran’s Crisis Line. By making a toll free call, I was connected to a counselor who could help me through my issue. The phone number is 800-273-8255.
If you are a veteran, struggling with depression or having a crisis, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Connect to others who may have gone through the same things you’ve gone through.
I utilize forums on Social Media and a Veteran Website called TogetherWeServed, to find others who have served.
Please, if you need help, do not be afraid to reach out to family, friends, and professionals.
The Veterans Crisis Line
Connects Veterans in crisis, their families, and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Responders will work with you to help you get through any personal crisis, even if that crisis does not involve thoughts of suicide. Dial 1-800-273-8255 and (Press 1) to talk to someone now. A confidential chat is also available online or through text. To chat online (https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx) or send a text to 838255 to receive confidential support anonymously.
Provides a range of resources and mental health services to veterans and their family members.
Give an Hour: Giving Help and Hope
Provides mental health services to those currently serving in the military, veterans, and their families.
Together we Served
The largest online community of Veterans that allows you to find people you served with, engage with other veterans, and remember your service.