A father of a Navy SEAL thanked President Donald Trump for making the issue of veteran suicides a priority.
Frank Larkin said that his son Ryan struggled with physical difficulties that were not properly diagnosed before taking his own life.
“In the two years that we tried to rescue him, he was prescribed over 40 different drugs,” Larkin said, noting that the treatment was all psychiatric and behavioral focused. “All along, Ryan kept saying that something was wrong with his head, but nobody was listening.”
Larkin said that his son donated his body to research, which helped understand the significance of microscopic brain injuries. “The emotional impact is very high to those suffering daily with these obscure injuries,” he said.
Larkin also praised the Navy SEALS for taking the issue seriously and doing more to reduce the risk of brain injuries in training and combat.
The president signed an executive order on Tuesday, creating a cabinet-level task force to study the issue of veteran suicides. “To every veteran I want you to know you have an entire nation of people behind you,” Trump said at the signing ceremony.
The task force will be led by Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, to deliver recommendations on partnering with state and local governments as well as private businesses to address the crisis.
“Veterans are America’s greatest national treasure,” Trump said during a signing ceremony at the White House. “They kept us safe and we’re going to keep them safe.”
Marine Corp veteran Thomas Winkel, the director of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families, also spoke, praising the president’s initiative as “exactly what this country needs.” He told a success story in the Arizona National Guard where they went from the highest rate of veteran suicides to zero.
“It can be done, we have the ability to prevent suicide, to make lives more empowered,” Winkel said.
He said a “no wrong door, no wrong person” approach was successful, in which more people were educated about how to help suffering veterans.
“Our belief is that if everybody knows what to do when when an individual is in trouble, they will act,” he said. “And we’ve seen it time and time again.”