Veteran shares emotional journey of overcoming depression, suicide attempts

He's speaking out for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. - September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. In order to raise awareness, one veteran is sharing the story of his own battle with depression.

When Jason Hogancamp was medically discharged from the U.S. Army,  he felt lost and had a hard time opening up.

"I lost my identity. I lost who I was," Hogancamp said. "I didn't know how to communicate with my family. I didn't know how to be a husband. I didn't know to, worse, be a father."

At one point, his suffering ust became too much to bear, he said.

"Anger and depression creeped in," Hogancamp said. "So I did. I tried to kill myself, and I was shocked that it didn't work."

His situation turned around at a rehabilitation center in Kentucky.

"I found Christ and I found the horses and that's why I'm breathing here today," said Hogancamp, the veterans' coordinator at Healing Strides of Virginia, an equine therapy program in Franklin County for kids, families and veterans.

The suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times higher than it is for nonveteran adults.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. It's also the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34.

"I think everybody's at risk. It doesn't matter," said Sheila Lythgoe, a prevention and wellness specialist at Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare, which is hosting free trainings for the public all month long to teach people how to recognize the signs and reach out.

"It's important for people to be educated about suicide and to know it's preventable. It's OK to ask questions," Lythgoe said. "It's OK to ask that tough question: 'Are you having suicidal thoughts?' So you can get them the help that they need."

Hogancamp said it may be hard to open up, but there's always someone willing to listen.

"If I can save one person and let them know that I care about you, that you matter in this world, regardless, if to no one else, you matter to me -- that's why I do what I do here," Hogancamp said.

If you or anyone else you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 1-800-273-8255.

You can also contact the Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare's 24-hour crisis line at: 540-981-9351.

Or you can contact the Veterans Crisis Line by calling: 1-800-273-8255, then press 1.

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