The parking lot suicides
The Washington Post
By Emily Wax-Thibodeaux
February 7, 2019
His death is among 19 suicides that occurred on VA campuses from October 2017 to November 2018, seven of them in parking lots, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
ST. PAUL, Minn.
A framed photo shows Justin Miller, a 33-year-old Marine who took his life in the parking lot of a Veterans Affairs hospital in Minneapolis last year. (Jenn Ackerman for The Washington Post)Alissa Harrington took an audible breath as she slid open a closet door deep in her home office. This is where she displays what’s too painful, too raw to keep out in the open.
Framed photos of her younger brother, Justin Miller, a 33-year-old Marine Corps trumpet player and Iraq veteran. Blood-spattered safety glasses recovered from the snow-covered Nissan Frontier truck where his body was found. A phone filled with the last text messages from his father: “We love you. We miss you. Come home.”
Miller was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts when he checked into the Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in February 2018. After spending four days in the mental-health unit, Miller walked to his truck in VA’s parking lot and shot himself in the very place he went to find help.
“The fact that my brother, Justin, never left the VA parking lot — it’s infuriating,” said Harrington, 37. “He did the right thing; he went in for help. I just can’t get my head around it.”
A federal investigation into Miller’s death found that the Minneapolis VA made multiple errors: not scheduling a follow-up appointment, failing to communicate with his family about the treatment plan and inadequately assessing his access to firearms. Several days after his death, Miller’s parents received a package from the Department of Veterans Affairs — bottles of antidepressants and sleep aids prescribed to Miller.
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The Washington Post is close on the number of veterans committing suicide at the VA. Actually in 2018 alone, there were at least 27 public suicides.
When veterans commit suicide publicly, no one can cover it up. They do it because while they give up on themselves, they have not given up on the people of this nation finally doing the right thing for the sake of all the others. The question is, when exactly do we do it?