Sad Tale of Suicide Touches Iowa Guard Members
A woman whose husband took his life urges service members not to fear seeking help for emotional distress.
by Tony Leys
Des Moines Register, Oct. 15, 2012
Maybe someday, Miranda Schaumburg will get a decent night’s sleep before she has to stand in front of a military audience and describe her husband’s collapse into suicide.
She’s made the presentation about 20 times in various parts of the country over the past several years, but the anxiety still grabs her. It woke her at 3 a.m. Saturday, 11 hours before she was slated to tell Iowa National Guard soldiers her family’s story.
She sat in her Pleasant Hill home before dawn, going over it again and again. How could she explain the way her Navy SEAL husband slipped into despondency, and the way the military failed to rescue him?
How could she convey how important it is that service members feel free to seek mental help without endangering their reputations and careers?
The Iowa Guard invited Schaumburg to speak Saturday afternoon to officers and senior sergeants as part of the Army’s national effort to stem a wave of suicides.
When the time came, she gathered her courage, walked to the front of a lecture hall in Johnston and faced about 125 men and women in camouflage uniforms. Her voice had a quaver at first, but it settled down and the facts spilled out.
Her husband, Chief Petty Officer Jerald Kruse, served 19 years in the Navy. He was a SEAL, an elite warrior sent to fight in some of the toughest situations around the world, including in Iraq. “His problems really began in ’05. That’s when I really began to notice something was wrong,” she said.
He drank excessively, stayed up all night and lashed out at her and their three kids.
“I came home from work one day, and he was in the bathroom. I heard him talking to someone, and I had no idea who he was talking to, but he was cussing.” She opened the door, expecting to find him berating one of their children, but he was alone, talking to himself.
She begged him to seek professional counseling. “He didn’t want to go get help, because he feared the stigma,” she said. “He feared what other people would think about him if they caught wind of him getting any kind of counseling.”
He finally went to a military clinic near their home in Virginia, she said. But after his appointment, he told her the doctor said his problem was that he drank too much Mountain Dew.
SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS
Experts say these are common signs of emotional turmoil that can lead to suicide:
• Appearing depressed or sad most of the time.
• Talking or writing about death or suicide.
• Withdrawing from friends or family.
• Feeling trapped as if there is no way out of a situation.
• Experiencing dramatic mood swings.
• Abusing alcohol or other drugs.
• Feeling excessive guilt or shame.
• Losing interest in most activities.
For help, call suicide prevention hot lines at 800-784-2433 or 800-273-8255.
His condition worsened over several months, into what she now sees as a clear case of post-traumatic stress disorder.
He would rock back and forth, reminding her of videos she’d seen of haunted children who were neglected in Romanian orphanages.
Kruse went back to the clinic, but he told his wife that a doctor said if he received psychiatric medications, he would lose his treasured spot in the Special Forces.
He couldn’t accept losing that part of his identity, she said. “My husband was 6 foot 4, 220 pounds. He was a badass,” she said.
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Filed under: Resources Tagged: | Chief Petty Officer Jerald Kruse, Military Family, Miranda Kruse, Miranda Schaumburg, Naval Special Warfare Group 3 (NSWG-3)/SDVT-2, Navy SEAL suicide, PTSD, Stigma, Suicide prevention, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors TAPS