SAN DIEGO — A local sailor, Will Gibson, is on a mission to battle veteran suicide by renaming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to an injury.
It is something Will Gibson, who is a Navy sailor, knows too well. Gibson's old college buddy, Tony Briley, was injured in the Army and could no longer serve. Physical pain led to mental anguish.
"We lost Tony this year in August," he said, then he hung his head and cried. "It makes me sad that I couldn't do more to help him," Gibson said.
Briley became one of an estimated 20 vets a day who kill themselves. He left behind a wife and two girls. Gibson has since learned a lot about veteran suicide.
"We're here to honor him and those like him and those like him," he said. PTSD is a big culprit when it comes to veterans killing themselves.
"As we think of a disorder, normally we that of that as something that's genetically pre-disposed," he explained. "What may cause some people to not report that they have post-traumatic stress or to not seek help is the classification as a disorder."
Will wants it classified as an injury to strip the stigma, so people are not ashamed of seeking help. He started a petition to get the government's attention which needs 99,968 signatures by January 29, 2017 to get the White House to respond.
It came about because he and two vets started a non-profit called Military Lives Continued, which is an effort to fight suicide. "One of the big problems is that there is a wealth of information out there," he said. "We want to act as a hub to allow people to search and to find things that fit them."
On Tuesday, Gibson's mom called him about a friend's military son who was in a dark place, "She was able to go to our site and find info that she provided to the family," he said. The man did not become one of the 20.
"It's working," Gibson said as he smiled and fought back tears. "We've reached out to one person."
You can find the petition here: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/formally-recognize-post-traumatic-stress-injury-vice-disorder.