War stress: 'Suicide is an option, but it's not a solution'

War stress: 'Suicide is an option, but it's not a solution' »Play Video
J.R. Browning talks about his brush with suicide following two Army tours of duty in Iraq, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Bakersfield, Calif.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — After serving more than six years in the Army and two tours of duty in Iraq in 2003 and 2005, J.R. Browning finally came home. But he was a changed man.

"I couldn't relate to anybody. Nobody got it, nobody really understood," said Browning.

A radio operator for his platoon, Browning was in the middle of firefights and witnesses the human carnage that is war. Once out of the military, adjusting to civilian life was a whole new battle. It was not easy.

"I went from being in the military to being jobless! It wasn't that I wasn't capable of working, I didn't want to, so depressed," said Browning.

The Iraqi vet shunned his family, moved in with Army buddies and started drinking heavily, unmotivated to do anything, he said. He later married, but things continued to slide.

"I made the decision to commit suicide," said Browning.

He checked into a hotel, intent on ending his life. A last-minute phone call to the Veterans Crisis Line saved his life when a counselor talked him out of suicide.

According to Pentagon data, there were 350 suicides among active duty troops in 2012, a new record. That's more than the number who died in combat in Afghanistan the same year.

"Suicide is an option, but it's not a solution," said Joe Acosta, a readjustment counselor with Bakersfield Vet Center. The center is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which helps vets and their families with numerous issues.

Acosta said services for vets are available, but it is up to the veteran to want to get help. That sentiment is echoed by Browning. It wasn't until he decided he wanted help that things began to improve, he said.

Help is available for any veteran going through a crisis. The number to the Veterans Crisis Line is (800) 273-8255.