Ohio family shares veteran suicide story to help others

“Holden Scott Corzine left the troubles of this world by his own hand on Wednesday, April 6, 2016.”

The 29-year-old Army veteran’s parents, retired Ross County Common Pleas Judge Jhan Corzine and Joan Corzine, a retired nurse, reasoned, no one really hides anything when they say “unexpectedly” in an obituary for a young person. It’s just code for drug overdose or suicide, so why not be honest.

“My wife and I both thought if it helped one person, it was worth it. All we wanted people to do is get help, hang onto their loved ones, and let them know things would be OK,” Jhan said. “Sometimes that’s not enough.”

That thought continues to guide the Corzines as they grapple with the loss of the younger of their two sons. In the months since finding Holden dead of a gunshot wound in the basement of their Chillicothe home, they’ve connected with suicide prevention awareness groups, walked in honor of Holden, and this month – National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – Jhan has become a statewide voice encouraging people to reach out for help.

A public service announcement released online by the Ohio Department of Veteran Services featuring Jhan has been viewed more than 21,000 times since Sept. 2.

Nearly four Ohioans each day die by suicide for a 10-year total of about 14,000 people.

Between 2005 and 2014, there were 129 deaths by suicide in Muskingum County, according to Ohio Department of Health data. Over the last three years, most suicides were of men between 36 and 50 years old.While the Ohio Department of Health doesn’t track how many suicides are veterans like Holden, the national estimate is 20 veterans a day complete suicide. Stigma around mental health continues in the larger community, but is heightened among those in the military where there’s a sentiment that soldiers are “big, bold, strong, and never need help,” said Chip Tansill, director of the Ohio Department of Veteran Services.

“In the past, it was an unwritten rule (in the military) that it was frowned upon if you sought help with (mental illness),” said Tansill, a retired Army colonel and combat veteran.

Over the past decade, the military has made a conscious effort to change that sentiment and get veterans the help they need. One way has been targeting family and loved ones with education on the warning signs of suicide, Tansill said. There’s also been a push to increase treatment access for veterans, particularly since about 14 of the veterans committing suicide each day are getting services in the community or veterans service centers and not VA hospitals and clinics, Tansill said.

In Ohio, Star Behavioral Health has been training community providers on the military experience so they have a better understanding how to treat those with combat-related trauma. The goal is to have trained community treatment providers in all 88 counties so the state’s 850,000-member veteran community can access someone, Tansill said.

Although Holden told his family he had PTSD after returning from Afghanistan in 2015, Jhan said his son’s troubles had actually begun to emerge when he was in high school.

Holden had an “infectious, ornery grin,” which made his sense of humor and affable personality apparent to those who met him. The Army wasn’t always his plan, but he had taken on an interest in competitive shooting in late middle school and practiced in high school with his 4-H team in the basement of the ROTC at Ohio State University.

After graduating from Chillicothe High School in 2005, he made his way to college at OSU, but “partied his way out” within a few years. The drinking was something Holden had begun in high school and it continued to plague him, shifting the direction of his life.

After leaving college, Holden returned to Chillicothe, working part-time at a local grocery, and he was accepted into the Navy nuclear submarine program. That dream came to an end in 2009 when he was arrested for drunk driving.

“A day or two after the DUI, my wife found him in the basement, passed out, gun in hand, and a suicide note he had written basically talking about how he had embarrassed his family, embarrassed himself,” Jhan said.

Holden’s parents took him for treatment, he pleaded no contest to the charge, and they thought the immediate crisis was over. However, in the back of their mind, they always worried he may try again. But Holden completed treatment and moved on, enlisting in the Army in 2012 and getting married after basic training. He trained to be an infantryman and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in New York. With the division’s history of being the most deployed in the Army, it was no surprise when Holden was deployed to Afghanistan where he drove the trucks towing large machine guns.

“He came back in August (2014) and immediately told us, ‘I’ve got PTSD and I need help.’ We were, obviously, very sad he had PTSD, but we were also very happy that he had recognized that he had a problem and wanted help for it,” Jhan said.

The military moved to help Holden, even putting him on Vivitrol, a monthly injection used to treat addiction to alcohol and/or opiates like prescription pain pills. After Holden’s death, his estranged wife Lisa confided that he previously attempted suicide at Fort Drum and that was what prompted his treatment in 2014 at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.

“Once they quit watching him, which was about September of 2015, his wife says, he started drinking pretty heavily again,” Jhan said.

By this past January, Holden received an honorable medical discharge and had returned to Chillicothe. Although he continued treatment at the Chillicothe Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Jhan suspects he wasn’t forthright with his treatment team about his continued alcohol consumption and how he was doing. Holden always had a knack for putting on a convincing front.

“Holden was always very good at always telling people what they wanted to hear. He knew what to say, ‘I’m OK.’ He could fool people,” Jhan said.

And while Jhan and Joan knew he was still drinking, typically alone at night, he was no longer a child. On the evening of April 6, they called down to him that dinner was ready. When he didn’t come upstairs, they went into the basement and discovered his body.

In July, they spoke with a friend of his in the Navy who had been on the phone with Holden the morning of April 6. The two had contemplated suicide at different times and would turn to each other for that empathetic ear; a voice of reason to escape the tunnel vision that develops around one’s problems and provides death as the only answer out. He thought it had worked.

“You know the military ethos, we don’t leave our own behind, you help your buddies, you help each other, you pull each other through? Well when you come home and the battlefield is in your mind, your buddy is your counselor, your psychologist, your psychiatrist, your treatment team, and they’re there to help you pull through, but you’ve got to let them,” Jhan said.

Jhan has been taking his own advice – not keeping everything bottled up and talking about his troubles, which he hopes helps not just him, but others.

“The one thing I want out of this is my son back and it’s the one thing I can’t have ... Hold your loved ones tight. Try to get them to talk to you as much as you can,” Jhan said.

Getting help

If you are contemplating suicide or facing any life crisis, call 800-273-TALK (8255) anytime to be connected with a trained counselor. Calls to the national hotline are directed to the nearest crisis center to your location.

Any veterans needing help connecting to treatment or other benefit resources can reach out to their county veterans services office. Contact information can be found online at dvs.ohio.gov.

Warning signs

While everyone is different, many people who contemplate suicide exhibit at least some warning signs such as:

  • Change in personality
  • Agitation
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from activities and interactions with others
  • Poor self care
  • Hopelessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


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