Friday, March 31, 2023

Florida mom mourns death of vet by suicide

Janine Lutz founded CPL. Janos V. Lutz Live to Tell Foundation, which provides programs for veterans with PTSD.

Florida, United States – Janos “John” Lutz was 19 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps from high school, aiming to play his part for his country after the 911 terrorist attacks.

As he expected, he was posted on the front lines in Iraq.

Janine Lutz remembers the first time her son called her from the war zone. He was serious when he told her what he had seen that day – a car bombing.

“We were the first to reach the spot. Body parts were everywhere,” said his boy, guarded as he recounted some of the details. He said that he was fine, that it was all part of his service. He was a Marine now, and that’s what Marines do.

But at the end of the call, just before he called, he suddenly lowered his voice, to a whisper, so soft that no one could hear.

“Be careful what you wish for,” he said under his breath.

The first crack she heard in his voice since joining the army was a reminder of how real her son’s wish had become.

But as brutal as his time in Iraq was, it was nothing compared to his next assignment in Afghanistan, where he saw combat in one of the largest military offensives of the war. During that operation in July 2009, his best friend, Lance Cpl. Charles Sharp, was killed. Lutz and his fellow Marines of Echo Company’s 2nd Platoon dragged Sharp’s body, hoping to transport him to a medical helicopter, but before they could get him help, Sharp stabbed him to death. Lutz witnessed a far greater carnage, which his mother would later learn from some of the Marines with whom her son had served.

When Lutz returned to the States a year later, he was tormented by nightmares and the pain of injuries sustained in a battlefield explosion. At Camp Lejeune, NC, he was prescribed an assortment of drugs. By the time he returned home to Davy, Florida, he had tried to kill himself—and was addicted to anti-anxiety medication.

He tried to wean himself off the drugs, and for a short time, it seemed he was on his way to recovery. But 18 months later, in January 2013, he took an overdose of morphine and a powerful sedative, leaving a note on his bedroom door saying “Do not resuscitate.”

About 17 veterans commit suicide a day in the United States. In Florida, 550 veterans died by suicide in 2019, the latest statistic available from the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs.

For Janine Lutz, the answer lies in veterans connecting with other veterans in their local community.

He founded CPL. Janos V. Lutz Live to Tell Foundation, which provides programs for veterans with PTSD. Each month, she hosts a Broward chapter meeting of “Buddy’s Up,” where veterans and first-responders (who also suffer from PTSD) help each other. He has traveled across the country in an RV conducting similar meetings and has also developed an app for veterans to connect with other veterans.

“People think they know what death and destruction look like, but until you actually see it, it’s an entirely different game,” she said.

“These giants, they feel they are getting weak if they reach. No, by reaching out, you can save the person you are contacting.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been working to address the suicide crisis among veterans and members of the military since the late 2000s, when rates began to rise.

The pandemic has prompted the VA to try new approaches and even reach out to experts around the world to find solutions. Still, many veterans and their families question how the VA treats post-traumatic combat stress syndrome and other combat-related injuries.

“When Johnny came home, he wasn’t the same person. The war had changed him. I couldn’t understand what was going on as he buried all his trauma and anger in the mind-numbing fog of the prescribed drug.” Gave it,’ said his mother.

It wasn’t until her son had died that Janine learned that VA doctors were prescribing her son a cocktail of drugs so common that members of the military community she spoke to called “zombie dope” therapy. had come to call

One pill helped him sleep. Another pain relief. Another bullet was for anxiety. The second was for his depression. The VA prescribed a benzodiazepine, which his own medical chart indicated he did not have. One of the withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines is suicidal ideation.

“It’s just criminal the way the VA gives our veterans a pill for every symptom. For them the solution to their problem is a pill—instead of getting to the root of the problem. Let’s process what they went through, Help them process what the hell they went through on the battlefield, through other war fighters, and not with a psycho who has never seen war.”

According to Brown University’s Watson Institute, between 1.9 and 3 million American soldiers served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of them were deployed more than once.

Countless soldiers returning home from war have suffered from what’s known as “invisible war wounds” or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The military has long struggled to find a cure for these brain disorders, mainly because they are difficult to detect and diagnose. Many soldiers suffer psychological effects without realizing what is causing their symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Studies show that most people with PTSD who use PTSD medication respond well to an anti-depressant drug when used properly. Medications can improve mood, help patients cope with stress, and reduce PTSD symptoms.

But Cole Lyle, a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan and now heads the Veterans Advocacy Group, Mission Role Call, said medicine should not be the primary focus of treating veterans. He said the agency has spent too long on what its doctors and clinicians call “evidence-based” research and treatments that focus primarily on drugs and psychotherapy.

The VA “views the problem of suicide among veterinarians as a mental health problem, which is a mistake,” Lyle said. “Looking at it through the lens of mental health removes all the other factors that lead the veteran to reach that point.”

Lyle knows what the desperation is as he contemplated taking his own life.

“In 2014, after returning from the war, I did not have a job. I lacked purpose. I used to feel alone,” he said. “It was a low point in my life. But it forced me to engage in veteran politics and policy.”

Now Lyle works with federal and state lawmakers who advocate on behalf of veteran issues, including suicide prevention. He traveled to Florida last month talking to veterans.

In April, VA officials announced plans for more than $50 million in grants for suicide prevention programs to community groups and other grassroots organizations to help the elderly.

In 2020, Congress passed a broad bipartisan bill aimed at preventing veteran suicides. Since then, funding for suicide prevention programs has increased from $206 million in 2019 to $598 million in 2022.

“The traditional model of prescribing medication to veterans is not conducive to ensuring that their quality of life is sustained and stable,” said U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Broward County Democrat who chairs the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee. “We are now focusing on funding for whole health – not just medicine.”

Over the past several years, the state of Florida has redirected some of its funding to community-based programs that are better able to reach veterans with PTSD and brain injuries.

“We’re getting off the drugs and now we have other treatments,” said Steve Murray, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. “We have hyperbaric oxygen treatment, canine warrior, equine therapy, photosensitivity therapy. We are now using non-traditional ways to address this issue and have had some success.

But he and others acknowledge that many veterans fail to take advantage of the programs. Military members are often reluctant to seek help, and historically, there has been a distrust of the VA.

“I talk to many veterans who do not use the VA and have a negative perception of the VA. There is no way to counter those perceptions – they try to use the VA but only to schedule an appointment. get frustrated with the sheer volume of communication,” Lyle said.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis recently launched a veterans suicide prevention program and expanded career and training opportunities for members of the military. Among other things, the state has staffed its 211 information hotline with accredited veterans to help other veterans. Each county in the state also has a veterans cases coordinator, and each VA medical center has a suicide prevention coordinator who conducts outreach.

But the state is vast, and many veterans retire to Florida from other states without registering for VA benefits in Florida.

“I think the state of Florida is still in crisis. We still don’t know who all the veterans are in Florida. We have to reach them,” said Clara Reynolds, CEO and president of the Crisis Center in Tampa, which runs across Florida. Provides funding for suicide-prevention programs experienced in the U.S.

“We have some very high pockets of suicides experienced in the state, and we are all trying to work together as a state. No agency can do that, we all have to work together to tackle this.” Have to do it.”

COVID-19 also slowed outreach, though it didn’t stop completely, said Murray, a retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel who has worked for the state’s Office of Veteran Affairs for 16 years. He said some treatments are still being offered remotely through telehealth, which has linked veterans to programs in more rural areas of the state.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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