Brandon Ketchum, a Marine and National Guard Veteran approached the VA Medical Center in Iowa City and asked for in-patient psychiatric care to which he was denied. The following day, Brandon Ketchum took his own life.
After a tour in the Marines to Iraq, Brandon enlisted again this time with the National Guard and was sent to Afghanistan. When he returned he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and was plagued with thoughts of suicide. He had twice been flagged for suicide by the VA in the last year, according to his girlfriend Kristine Nichols.
Brandon began abusing drugs and developed an addiction to pain killers which soon turned into heroin. He asked his girlfriend if he should check himself into a psychiatric hospital to which she agreed. After driving over an hour, the psychiatrist who had Seen Ketchum regularly, denied him admission to the hospital.
“I requested that I get admitted to 9W (psych ward) and get things straightened out. Ketchum wrote on his Facebook page mere hours before he took his own life. “I truly felt my safety and health were in jeopardy, as I discussed with the doc. Not only did I get a ‘NO’, but three reasons of no based on me being not f***** up enough. At this point I say, ‘why even try anymore?’ They gave up on me, so why shouldn’t I give up on myself? Right now, that is the only viable option given my circumstances and frame of mind.”
Brandon’s story is not an isolated case of depression. It is estimated that an average of 20 returning soldiers commit suicide each day. In fact, Brandon had lost 10 close ‘brothers in arms’ in the last 3 years to suicide.
Chris Kemp, a Marine who served with Brandon, wants to now honor his fallen fellow soldier’s memory. "To see that he went to the VA and they denied him help is just infuriating," said Kemp. He plans to use a 45-acre family plot of land in Texas to establish a non-profit for vets battling PTSD. "I want to get families and veterans together in nature, like camping outside where they can get together and talk," said Kemp.
Brandon’s family has requested his records from the VA and is in the process of investigating why he was turned away from the VA when he went there to request treatment.
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