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Mother of local veteran honors son by earning degree while stressing importance of mental health

Posted at 7:37 PM, May 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 23:16:17-04

FARMLAND — An Indiana family is stressing the importance of speaking about mental health struggles after their son died by suicide while on leave from a tour in Afghanistan.

Their son, Jacob Sexton, had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Sexton's parents said people need to talk about mental health, saying just talking about what you're going through can be life-saving.

Jeff and Barbara Sexton are parents to four boys, one of them being Jacob Sexton. Jacob was a National Guardsman and served two tours overseas, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

He was on a 15-day leave from Afghanistan when he went to the movie with his brother and friend. He killed himself 10 minutes into a movie while in Muncie.

"I hugged (him) and I said 'I love you' as I always do my boys," Barbara Sexton said. "And I never got to see him come through the back door again."

His death marks a need to increase awareness of mental health disorders.

"Nobody wants to say it, but if you don't say it, it never gets out to help anybody else," Jeff Sexton said.

Barbara Sexton has worked for 40 years to earn her degree, she graduated Sunday from Southern New Hampshire University. She hopes her new degree will help her work with veterans.

The Sextons describe their son Jacob as kindhearted and a people person. He was 21 when he died.

"I miss him every day," Barbara Sexton said. "To be honest with you, I still wait for him to come home."

The Sextons said they think he didn't want it to look like he needed help.

"The immorality of war, just tears at some people," Jeff Sexton said. "Seeing all the children being maimed and everything I think just finally broke him."

Bryan Dysert, the chief operating officer at Helping Veterans and Families, said many vets struggle with PTSD and mental health disorders, yet so few talk about it.

"Get rid of the stigma that's out there, and it's like it's okay to talk about this stuff," Dysert said.

The Sextons have a message for anyone struggling with PTSD or any other mental health issues.

"Reach out to someone you love," Barbara Sexton said. "They're there and they care. They will hold your hand and they won't let go. They will walk that path with you. I will walk that path with you just to keep you here. "Once you are gone you can't come back, and all those broken hearts that you've made if you choose to leave, They're broken, they'll never heal."

"Everybody needs to know that they can have somebody they can fall back on to help," Jeff Sexton said.

The Mayo Clinic says symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Intrusive memories
  • Avoidance
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood
  • Changes in physical and emotional reaction

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD or mental health issues you can reach out to:

  • Doctor or Mental Health Professional
  • Close Friend or Loved One
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
  • Call 911 if Emergency Situation

Mayo Clinic experts say if you have disturbing thoughts and feeling about a traumatic event more than for more than a month, or if you feel you're having trouble getting your life back under control, you should see a doctor.

If you have suicidal toughs, reach out to a close friend or loved one. You may call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. You should also make an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional.

Call 911 if you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide.