He Made a Difference

Dean Massey, the founder of Horses Help Heroes, praising his horse, Hannah, in 2016. (Photo by Kristina Truluck)

I lost a Marine Corps veteran and friend to suicide in August. Dean Massey founded and ran a non-profit, Horses Help Heroes, to help military, veterans, and their families. My husband and I had the privilege of assisting this organization through the use of our horses, support at events, and participation in fundraisers.

As one of his Horses Help Heroes assistants said, “Dean was so busy helping others that he forgot to take care of himself.”

Dean’s sudden death shocked those who knew him. I personally wondered, “What did I miss?” And this is the same question I asked myself after my first cousin took his life. And after my stepbrother took his life.

A shocking statistic is that in 2019, an average of 20 veteran and active duty servicemembers have committed suicide every day. In case this may help just one person, here are the warning signs according to the Department of Veterans Affairs:

What are signs that someone may be considering suicide?

Many Veterans don’t show any signs of an urge to harm themselves before doing so. But some may show signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or hopelessness, like:

  • Seeming sad, depressed, anxious, or agitated most of the time
  • Sleeping either all the time or not much at all
  • Not caring about what they look like or what happens to them
  • Pulling away from friends, family, and society
  • Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things they used to care about
  • Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame, failure, lack of purpose in life, or being trapped

They may also change the way they act, and start to:

  • Perform poorly at work or school
  • Act violently or take risks (like driving fast or running red lights)
  • Do things to prepare for a suicide (like giving away special personal items, making a will, or seeking access to guns or pills)

Get the full list of signs that someone may be considering suicide

If you are a Veteran or you know a Veteran who is showing any of these signs, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net, or text to 838255 today.

There are many remembering you, Dean, and the purposeful life you lived serving others. May you rest in peace and know you made a difference.