A mom in Pittsburg wants to speak out about the signs of post traumatic stress disorder after her soldier son killed himself recently.
The family of 30-year-old army veteran Terry O'Hearn is holding a memorial service for him at the VFW Post in Antioch this Saturday. His mother Robin Kiepert wants to help other military families struggling to cope with PTSD.
"For people like Terry, it's a need to take care of them when they get back. They're not the same person that left," said Kiepert, who's an Air Force veteran herself.
Kiepert says Terry was loving, playful and easygoing when he enlisted in the Army.
As a soldier, he saw combat during two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He survived with minor physical injuries, but the emotional wounds ran deep.
"When he got back from Afghanistan, he was angry. His personality really changed," said Kiepert.
She says the change was initially understandable because there is a period of adjustment to civilian life. But over time, it became more pronounced and then a suicide attempt, followed by treatment at the VA hospital in Palo Alto.
She says Terry was diagnosed with PTSD.
"He won't even allow me to come see him," said Kiepert.
She says her son's anger and paranoia grew. He isolated himself from family and friends.
She says she would try to visit him at his apartment. He would leave a note telling her he won't open the door.
"I'm angry at him yes...we were so close. I'm angry at myself. I'm his mother you should be able to help them
should be able to help your children if they can't help themselves," said Kiepert.
Because he's an adult and privacy laws, mom says she couldn't find out what treatment Terry was receiving.
Then, there was a second suicide attempt in January.
She visited him in the hospital.
"This is a monster almost. Here's a person this is not the child I raised. This is not the child that would talk to his mother this way. He's so broken," said Kiepert.
Then last month, Terry hung himself in his apartment.
Since then, Kiepert says she's discovered support groups outside the VA that can help families cope.
And she's learned that talking to others about PTSD could have better helped her and her family
find ways to intervene.
"If there is anybody out there with a son or daughter that says 'I don't want you to talk to me,' you need to talk to a lot of people about your son or your daughter or your wife or your husband," said Kiepert.
Now, she's encouraging other families to look for signs of PTSD, get help and intervene early. She says one group she supports is www.stopsoldiersuicide.org.
Help is also available with the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (dial 1 after).