Fort Bragg soldier shares his story during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Cumberland County News

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WNCN) — During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a Fort Bragg soldier is sharing his story of suicidal thoughts.

Nearly 20 years into his military career, Sgt. Maj. Patrick McGrath didn’t want to live anymore.

“I would lay my head down at night and I would ask God ‘please just don’t let me wake up tomorrow’,” McGrath said.

In 2019, Sgt. Maj. McGrath was in school to earn the highest enlisted rank in the Army, when negative thoughts stemming from his childhood tormented him.

He turned to alcohol to cope.

“It was a secret of mine that I was not telling anyone about what I was doing,” McGrath said. “I was on the road to end my life.”

He didn’t want his family to suffer, so he went to his instructor for help.  

“I decided on Feb. 5. of 2019 that I wanted to live,” McGrath said.

McGrath went through a substance abuse treatment program and behavioral health programs.

He shares his story in hopes of helping others and encouraging them to talk to someone instead of keeping it inside.

“I’m doing what God wants me to do,” McGrath said. “Today I’m 586 days sober, my marriage is going in a great direction, my kids are proud of me, and I think that is the most remarkable thing.”

Liz Bechtel manages the suicide prevention efforts at Fort Bragg.

She teaches military leaders the signs of suicidal thoughts and how to prevent it.

“Make sure you open that dialogue not with ‘hey are you having a problem,’ just kind of approach it a little bit more subtle and start having that conversation and let them know that you are there,” Bechtel said.

Bechtel says some risk factors for suicide include relationship breakdowns, behavior and attitude changes, and an increase in substance abuse problems.

She says especially during physical distancing guidelines, people need to connect with each other emotionally.

“We still want to make sure we are taking care of one another, and we are talking to one another, and we are checking on each other,” Bechtel said.

The suicide prevention helpline number is 1-800-273-8255.

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