Buddy Check Day raises awareness of veteran suicide

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Twenty-two veterans commit suicide in our country every day.

Because of that tragic number, September 22 is Buddy Check Day, a day when you are encouraged to call veteran friends and family members and check on their mental well-being.

WREG spoke with one veteran about his heroic battle against post-traumatic stress disorder and how his combat experience shaped his life.

Marine Corps combat veteran Michael Porter has seen things in his life most people could never relate to.

"A hand grenade...even if you survive it, even if you don't get any wounds from it, you still had to reach over, pick it up and throw it back at the other guy so it takes him out. People don't understand that kind of mentality," he said. "The worst wounds are the ones you cannot see."

Physically, he is only partially disabled from a back injury, but because he is diagnosed with PTSD and bipolar disorder, he is considered completely disabled and unable to work.

Renee Brown, the suicide prevention coordinator for the Memphis Veterans Affairs, said, if untreated, mental disorders like PTSD and depression can put veterans into a downward spiral.

"A lot of risk factors come into play where they might not even seek help."

That is why she works every day to provide hotline services, psychiatric help through the VA and outpatient counseling.

"I call them weekly just to make sure they're keeping their appointments," she said. "If they miss an appointment, we follow up with them to let them know how important it is to stay on their medication."

While Brown said medication does help, veterans need more than just pills; they also need support from family, friends and especially from other veterans.

"Peer support. Peer groups. We need more of that," Porter said. "We don't have enough."

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. For help specific to veterans, choose option 1.

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