MOLLIE S. WATERS/THE GREENVILLE STANDARD
CO WRITTEN BY: BRENDA MOODY
It is every parent’s greatest fear: to lose a son or daughter.
For Brenda Moody, it is a reality she is still coming to terms with just a few short months after her son, Jimmy, took his own life.
A veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom Campaign, Jimmy Moody suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Only 30 years old at the time of his death, Jimmy had seen and lived through more than most people ever do.
“Jimmy joined the United States Marine Corps at age 19,” said Brenda. “He was assigned foreign service in Okinawa, Japan. That Okinawa unit was not deployable, but our son volunteered to attach to a Hawaii unit, and he was deployed to Iraq.”
Brenda said her son’s active combat duty in Iraq lasted about seven months, but his experiences there stayed with him long after he came home.
“Jimmy’s assignment was similar to that of a military police officer, but that was not his classification,” stated Brenda. “He was a guard for detainees. He transported detainees to receive medical treatment or to other locations where they were taken. He saw live combat, and his mind and body were poised for action 24/7.”
During his time in service, Jimmy lost several “buddies” in the war. Brenda said her son experienced survivor’s guilt because of it.
When Jimmy’s duty ended, he returned to civilian life and pursued a career as a firefighter.
“He completed EMT training and became a certified EMT,” said Brenda, “and when he finished Fire College, he went to work with Sarasota County Fire Department in Florida.”
In the spring of 2015, Jimmy worked a horrific call that led to a trigger episode of PTSD.
From that point on, Jimmy began having more trouble dealing with his depression, which was complicated by PTSD.
“There were signs before,” said Brenda. “He would call and say he was ‘stressed,’ but at the time, I did not understand the value or magnitude of that word. Now, I know his mind was trying to cope with normal life situations, but the PTSD affected his ability to sort things out.
Inwardly, there was a “war” going on in his mind, soul, spirit and body.”
Jimmy sought medical treatment for his panic attacks following the event that triggered his PTSD episode in 2015. He came under doctors’ care, received counseling and was put on medications.
“Jimmy was dealing with depression, anxiety, panic attacks and night terrors,” said Brenda. “He was sensitive to noises, was hypervigilant and could not handle being in closed spaces at times.”
Brenda said all of Jimmy’s symptoms were classic signs of PTSD. For some individuals, coping with PTSD is disabling.
Brenda said that while Jimmy did cry out for help and did receive some treatment, he got to a point this past summer where he was in a dark place from which he felt like there was no escape.
He wanted to be “normal,” but his strength was gone; he felt like he had no reason to live.
“He isolated himself,” said Brenda. “People tried to help: Marine friends, friends with military experience, classmates and family. But, he was just in such a dark place. He wouldn’t even let people in the door.
“When Jimmy completed suicide on Aug. 4, he had only been released from the hospital for a few days. Although he had been crying out for help, the medical/mental health care he received was too little, too late!
“One of the things I want people to understand about Jimmy’s death and PTSD is a lot of times, the people who suffer from it don’t even ask for help,” said Brenda. “Many may not recognize this condition is too serious to handle alone. They may feel embarrassed. Some hesitate to seek treatment because of the stigma associated with mental illness.”
Brenda is sharing her son’s story in the hopes other parents of combat veterans will not lose their children.
“I want people in the community to understand PTSD is real, and there are thousands in Alabama and maybe millions in America who suffer from mental illness,” said Brenda. “We need to educate people about mental illness and work toward removing the stigma surrounding it.”
Brenda added that raising awareness and getting people to talk openly about mental illness, including PTSD, was her son’s dying wish.
“Jimmy left us a two-page letter,” said Brenda, “and it is endearing to his family left behind.”
In his own words, added Brenda, her son expressed his hope that people would not judge him or others who suffer from mental illness, but rather offer empathy for those suffering.
“Jimmy just got to a point of hopelessness. He had suffered silently for many years,” said Brenda. “There were many contributing factors to his death. We are leaving out personal details. Marines and firefighters are tough people, and they don’t always reach out. Jimmy did, but he had suffered too many losses to weather this storm.”
Brenda said raising awareness may be a key to begin helping those with PTSD, and she encourages anyone who is suffering with this illness to seek help medically and spiritually. She also asks for the family and friends of anyone who may have PTSD or other types of mental illness to reach out to that person, with extra love and understanding.
“No parent should ever have to bury a child,” said Brenda. “I am willing to talk with family members privately, and will share our story, if it may help save someone.”
A PTSD support group has formed in Greenville. It meets each Tuesday night at the Butler Baptist Association office at 400 East Commerce Street at 6 p.m.