Valrico mom battles Army to save son from suicide - WNCN: News, Weather

Valrico mom battles Army to save son from suicide

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Jed Davis readies for war Jed Davis readies for war
Jed Davis and his family pre-Afghanistan Jed Davis and his family pre-Afghanistan
Private First Class Jed Davis Private First Class Jed Davis
VALRICO, FL (WFLA) - Jedidiah Davis was fresh out of high school, only 17 years old when his mother Theresa Crooks signed papers allowing him to join the U.S. Army.

"From probably the time that he was five, he's always wanted to be a soldier,"Crooks said.

As an honor student, he graduated from an Illinois high school in May 2011.  He joined the Army the next month.  Jed turned 18 while in basic training.

The Army stationed Jed in Alaska. Within a few weeks, he called his parents with some news.

"I passed the phone to my husband and I said he's being deployed," his mother said,.

In October 2011, the Army sent private first class Jed Davis off to war in Afghanistan.

He worked as a forward observer with the 40th Cavalry. His job was to find the enemy.

His first combat action came unexpectedly.  "They were ambushed and the gentleman next to him was shot," Crooks said.

The screams Jed heard from his wounded buddy never faded from his memory.

In Afghanistan, he told his mother, he lived on edge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He never knew how or from where death might come.

The 40th Cavalry returned come in October 2012.

When Jed Davis came home to Valrico in December, his mother noticed a dramatic change.

"He paced all night long," she said.

While Jed was home for three weeks, Theresa Crooks said her son slept maybe one night. She claimed he told her that he felt he needed to protect the family.

"When you're home you should feel safe and secure, and he didn't feel it while he was home," she said.

There were other changes as well.

"Any conversation that you had with him, if he didn't think it was going the right way he would snap and just be so angry with us," Crooks said. "We went out to a restaurant and he has to sit in the back of the restaurant and has to be able to see everything going on."

She noticed that just walking in a shopping mall was difficult for Jed, because there were too many people and he couldn't see what was behind him.

When Jed returned to his base in Alaska, Theresa Crooks began what turned into 10 months of texting and calling her son's sergeant, expressing her concerns, and asking for help for her son.  According to Crooks, the Army's response was, "your son is fine."

She soon learned a soldier in Jed's unit had taken his life.  Jed started calling her at 3 o'clock in the morning.

"He was very depressed," she said.

Fearing Jed was moving toward suicide, Theresa Crooks continued calling his sergeant and reached out to his chaplain.

In October 2013 she got a text.

"When I got the text that he was in mental health, and that's the only text I got, the worst thing in my head was going on, that he did something, he finally did something," Crooks said.

Psychologist Barbara Van Dahlen says military suicide is a devastating consequence of war.

"This is not a minor issue, it is a national concern," Van Dahlen said.

Van Dahlen heads a non profit called Give An Hour, an organization dedicated to meeting the mental health needs of the troops and families affected by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She claims invisible wounds suffered in these wars have been a huge issue for the last many years.

"For some people when they come home, those images, those memories, the consequences of being in combat really can have a profound effect on their functioning and then you can often get a spiral affect," Van Dahlen said. 

In 2012 the military spent nearly one billion dollars to address mental health issues and with good reason.

During the last two years, the number of deaths by suicide in the military out number deaths in combat.

In 2012, 295 service members died in combat, 349 died by suicide.

In 2013, 127 service members died in combat, 296 died by suicide.

According to a report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies; "Between 2000 and 2011, almost one million service members or former service members were diagnosed with at least 1 psychological disorder, either during or after deployment; almost half of these members had multiple disorders."

The Army failed to respond to basic questions about its protocol for suicide prevention.

It has produced and placed on its website a slick suicide prevention training video called "Shoulder to Shoulder."

In the video, soldiers discuss how they thought about suicide, but buddies and commanders stepped in to keep them from making fatal choices.

Van Dahlen contends while the nation's top brass is in step with identifying and quickly treating mental health issues, it has not yet filtered down to all levels of the military.

"Right now in the military we don't necessarily have that consistence yet, where we need to be, we're not there yet," Van Dahlen said.

The IOM report concurs. It states "Screening, assessment, and treatment approaches for psychological health problems are not always implemented between and within the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration in a consistent manner...which threatens the delivery of high-quality care and hampers evaluation efforts."

When Theresa Crooks arrived in Alaska last October, she learned that on three occasions, Army buddies took her son Jed to the base emergency room to be treated for anxiety and panic attacks. In searching his room she found doctors placed Jed on 14 different prescriptions for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The chaplain told her Jed felt suicidal.  She found Jed alive, not in a hospital setting, but in a party like setting in a sergeant's apartment off base.

When Crooks confronted his base commander, he denied any knowledge of Jed's condition.

"I said, so you have my son, who jumps out of an airplane, who carries a weapon, on all these prescriptions and is having a nervous breakdown, but you're not supposed to know their mental health? And he said it's the HIPPA laws," Crooks said.

Crooks told the Army she refused to leave Alaska until it agreed to send Jed to a clinic that specialized in the treatment of PTSD.

"This mother is absolutely right to be concerned and good for her that she is fighting for her son to make sure that he is ok," Van Dahlen said.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, the Army sent finally Jed to a San Diego clinic that worked with those suffering from PTSD. He was treated for 10 weeks, then sent back to his base in Alaska.

Theresa Crooks says Jed still needs help and will probably need it for the rest of his life. Every time the telephone rings, she worries.

"He didn't think twice about it when they said he was going to Afghanistan. He didn't tell me on the phone, I don't want to go, and now that he's back, no one wants to help him, that he's just a pain in the butt to them," Crooks said.

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