Skip to main content

Military Health System

Army Sgt. Maj. implores others to seek help for suicide ideation

Recommended Content:

| Suicide Prevention | Psychological Fitness

“I prayed to God to just take me. For one, I was a coward, I didn’t want to do it, and I would prefer He do it on his terms,” recalled Army Sgt. Maj. Patrick McGrath, 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, of contemplating suicide in 2019.

McGrath’s story goes back to his childhood. He detailed how this was a relevant point because the soldiers he serves with in the Army come from all walks of life.

“I didn’t have the best childhood,” said McGrath, who was born at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in eastern North Carolina, but grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. “My father was in the Marines for seven years, but not during a time I can remember. My mother was a drug addict and alcoholic.”

McGrath said it was after high school that he discovered the taste of alcohol.

He said he attempted to go to college, but it didn’t pan out. He ended up becoming a pizza chain manager, but didn’t feel a sense of purpose.

“I went home and told my dad I was going to look at all the services,” he said.

After joining the Army, McGrath said he still had a “backpack full of stuff” stemming from his childhood, such as low self-esteem and no sense of value, but he felt he had a purpose.

“The Army gave me a little tag that told me this is how you wear your uniform, this is how you’re supposed to act and follow the five Rs (right place, right time, right attitude, right uniform and right appearance),” he said. “This will ensure you’re successful.”

McGrath said he was on the pathway to success, but there came a moment when he drank until he blacked out. He said it was the first time in his life he thought he was like his mom, a road he didn’t want to travel.

McGrath said he was ‘boozing it up’ only on the weekends. He hid his drinking habit, and no one suspected he had a problem. He had soldiers who relied on him. He stayed focused all the while struggling with his own challenges, but his soldier gave him a sense of purpose.

“When I came down on orders and went to Korea, everything was still good,” McGrath said. “I was a first sergeant. I still had that sense of purpose, but I started drinking more. Weekends morphed into weekdays. My performance declined, but I was really good at what I did, so it appeared to those around me, I was doing what I needed to do. I had manipulated my leadership because I was getting results.”

In November 2017, the sergeants major’s list came out. His name was on the list and in August 2018 he’d be heading to Fort Bliss, Texas, to attend the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.

“I’m in trouble,” he remembered thinking to himself. “I knew I was going to have to leave my family, and I had no self-discipline. For 17 years, I had manipulated the Army.”

On July 13, 2018, he left Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, for Texas, and regressed back to drinking. “I showed up to the academy, was assigned a squad leader for accountability and stayed in a hotel for about 20 days before the class started Aug. 8,” McGrath said. “Following the accountability check, I would go back to my room and be drunk by 1300 (1 p.m.). I was in my room crying because I already knew I had gone too far.”

McGrath said when school started, he became a bit more disciplined because there was a requirement from the Army. However, in order to thrive and succeed in the academy, he had to be self-disciplined, an area he failed at.

“I would wake up each day and tell myself I wasn’t going to drink,” he said. “I had the shakes, but no one knew I was going through this; it was a secret. I had three roommates, too, and they had no idea.”

McGrath explained how one day he was driving to the Academy and started to plan how he was going to kill himself. “There’s these crazy overpasses in El Paso and people jump off there all the time,” he said. “That was my plan, too.”

But Feb. 5, 2019, he bolstered the courage to ask for help.

“I went into the instructors’ office at the academy and said ‘If I don’t get help, I’m going to kill myself,’ ” McGrath proclaimed. “I ended up going to resident treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas (now Joint Base San Antonio). I went back to the academy on April 9, 2019, was dropped for medical reasons, and came back to Fort Bragg.”

The support he received was opposite from what he thought it would be.

“I couldn’t comprehend the academy instructors being so supportive,” McGrath said. “I thought they would say I was letting the NCO Corps down and the academy down. Their reaction gave me hope that I could still one day wear the rank of sergeant major. The experience also impacted my spiritual relationship with God. God was using them to tell me it was going to be OK!”

Elizabeth Bechtel, Fort Bragg’s Suicide Prevention Program manager, said it is important to educate the community on Suicide Prevention/Intervention for a couple of reasons.

“The one thing we hear time and time again from those who survived an attempted suicide is they just wanted someone to listen to them,” she said. “So, teaching active listening skills and how to care when someone is in crisis is very important."

McGrath echoed that sentiment. He added how his family, the academy instructors, the treatment in San Antonio, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and having the opportunity to help others who are struggling has renewed his purpose.

He said there are a lot of people like him and he wants them to know their darkness can turn into light.

“I finished the non-resident portion of the academy on April 3, 2020 and was promoted to sergeant major August 1, 2020,” McGrath said. “I’ve been sober for 569 days.”

All service members, veterans, and their families are encouraged to contact the Military & Veterans' Crisis Line by dialing 988 and selecting Option 1 to speak with a trained counselor. The support is free, confidential and available every day 24/7. If you or a loved one is seeking information about psychological health concerns, contact the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020 to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants 24/7.

You also may be interested in...

5 Tips to Stay Mission Ready

Video
6/23/2021
5 Tips to Stay Mission Ready

Getting the job done in the military takes more than just physical strength. Whether you are at home or abroad, follow these tips to stay mission ready and mentally fit.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

You Are Your Partner's Biggest Support

Video
6/23/2021
You Are Your Partner's Biggest Support

Military life can be difficult for couples. Learn how to keep your relationship resilient to endure difficult times and stay mission ready.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

4 Ways to Cope with Survivor Guilt

Video
6/23/2021
4 Ways to Cope with Survivor Guilt

When a fellow warrior dies or is injured in battle, it’s common to have feelings of shock, regret or guilt. This is known as Survivor guilt. Learn how you can stay psychologically fit.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

Learn How to Prioritize Your Psychological Health

Video
6/23/2021
Learn How to Prioritize Your Psychological Health

Taking care of yourself can help balance life’s demands. These tips can help you manage time and make your psychological health a top priority.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

Get Ready for Your First Appointment

Video
6/23/2021
Get Ready for Your First Appointment

When you meet with a health care provider for the first time, it’s important to be honest about your concerns to make the best treatment plan for you. Learn tips to help you get ready.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

Cataracts Concern Battle Fighters, the Aging

Article
6/21/2021
A doctor performing cataract surgery

Traumatic cataracts can occur during battlefield injuries, but they are largely avoidable in non-combat situations.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

Taking the First Step to Access Behavioral Health Care

Video
6/21/2021
Taking the First Step to Access Behavioral Health Care

Seeking care early = a healthier life. Learn how you can get connected with a health care provider.

Recommended Content:

Real Warriors Campaign | Psychological Fitness

59 Sec PSA Persistence in Care and Treatment

Video
6/18/2021
59 Sec PSA Persistence in Care and Treatment

Finding the right provider and right type of treatment takes time and patience. Hear how Air National Guard Capt. Casey Ross persisted to find treatment that worked for her and encourage her military family to do the same.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

59 Sec PSA Not All Trauma is Combat Related

Video
6/18/2021
59 Sec PSA Not All Trauma is Combat Related

After spending years reliving memories of childhood trauma, Air National Guard Capt. Casey Ross realized seeking psychological health care was the only way she’d be able to move forward. Hear why she took this critical first step to improve her career and personal well-being.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

59 Sec PSA Embracing Psychological Health Treatment

Video
6/18/2021
59 Sec PSA Embracing Psychological Health Treatment

After engaging in care herself and receiving support from her squadron commander and military family, Air National Guard Capt. Casey Ross is working with her unit and military family to share the message that you can get stronger through psychological health treatment.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

59 Sec PSA Overcoming the Barriers of Seeking Treatment

Video
6/18/2021
59 Sec PSA Overcoming the Barriers of Seeking Treatment

After realizing she needed treatment, Air National Guard Capt. Casey Ross felt ashamed and thought she needed to hide it from her command and feared she would lose her flight status. Hear how Capt. Ross overcame the barriers and stigma around seeking care, and how her command and military family fully supported her decision to seek care.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

Start the Conversation

Video
6/18/2021
Start the Conversation

It’s not always obvious when someone is experiencing depression or thinking about suicide. In this video, learn how you can identify signs of distress and take action by starting the conversation about getting help.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | Psychological Fitness | Suicide Prevention

Start the Conversation 29 Sec PSA

Video
6/18/2021
Start the Conversation 29 Sec PSA

Talking to someone about getting help can be difficult. This video introduces some tips to help you start the conversation.

Recommended Content:

Real Warriors Campaign | Psychological Fitness | Suicide Prevention

Start the Conversation 59 Sec PSA

Video
6/18/2021
Start the Conversation 59 Sec PSA

Talking to someone about getting help can be difficult. This video introduces some tips to help you start the conversation.

Recommended Content:

Real Warriors Campaign | Psychological Fitness | Suicide Prevention

inTransition PSA Insights providers video

Video
6/17/2021
inTransition PSA Insights providers video

In this video health care providers talk about the importance of helping service members maintain continuity of care as they encounter a change in status.

Recommended Content:

inTransition Videos | Psychological Fitness
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10  ... > >> 
Showing results 106 - 120 Page 8 of 16
Refine your search
Last Updated: August 05, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery