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Veterans end 300-mile walk to raise suicide awareness in Phoenix

Adam Shatarsky and Ross Delafield complete their 300-mile walk. (KTAR Photo/Corbin Carson)

PHOENIX -- Mission accomplished. A group of veterans successfully completed a 300-mile walk Monday to raise awareness of veteran suicides.

"There are 22 veterans a day that are committing suicide, that's a staggering number in itself," said Ross Delafield with The Wounded Walk. "I'm doing it for all my buddies that went through so much more than I ever did when I was in the Marine Corps, because I was able to put one foot in front of the other, and there are 22 other guys that aren't able to do that."

The Wounded Walk was created by two Marines, Adam Shatarsky and Ross Delafield, who wanted to reach out to other veterans while walking across the country.

"Once you (end of active service) or you honorably discharge, you're just out the door with all of these experiences, and then all of a sudden you're left to your own devices," said Shatarsky. "For me, it was like a downward spiral. It ruined a lot of my life doing that. And that's why I do this."

Suicide prevention in veterans has been an issue for some time. Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, said some estimate more than 30 veterans take their own lives every day.

"These veterans are often classified as having (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) which they do, but they may also have a brain injury," said Orient. "Which is either the cause of the PTSD or certainly complicates it a great deal."

They are currently treated as if they have psychiatric disorder and given very potent drugs. Those carry an FDA warning about increased risk of suicide, she said.

"Brain injury is very common in soldiers," she said. "The incidents are increased by the number of firefights, high powered ammunition or even (improvised explosive devices)."

Orient said IEDs subject a person to a blast wave, which is a high-pressure wave followed by a low-pressure. It's the same thing that happens to scuba divers that surface too rapidly and develop bubbles in their blood stream, commonly called getting "the bends."

She said a new treatment may help veterans displaying signs of blast injuries. The treatment involves receiving oxygen from a hypobaric chamber. This hypobaric treatment for veterans could relieve the common symptoms of PTSD, such as constant headaches and insomnia, in just a few sessions.

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