Veteran talks about struggles with addiction, attempted suicide to help others

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) — A Little Rock veteran is getting viral recognition after posting about his struggle with addiction and attempted suicide.

Mikel Brooks put up two pictures on his Facebook page, one was recent, the other was taken four years ago right before he tried to kill himself.

“I had destroyed my entire life,” said Brooks, a decorated veteran who was injured in combat. “I was a severe methamphetamine addict. I wasn’t going to the VA. I wasn’t getting help. My family had basically disowned me. I was homeless a lot of the time, and this is a problem a lot of veterans go through.”

In a side by side comparison, the pictures are an alarming difference, and that got the attention of thousands.

“I was really shocked by how people received it,” Brooks said.

The post has been liked more than 22,000 times and hundreds have commented applauding Brooks and even sharing their own stories.

“It’s letting people know that there is help,” Brooks added. “There is a very hard stigma around addiction, suicide and even mental health.”

Changing that kind of thinking is one reason Brooks started a crisis team called “We Are The 22.” It operates as a hotline for Arkansas veterans to stop them from committing suicide. From them, Brooks and his team will work the person to continue helping them get better.

Brooks says because of the post, the crisis hotline has gotten more calls from veterans and he’s also heard from other vets who want to join the crisis team.

“Our motto is ‘fighting for the living, living for the fallen,'” Brooks said.

In the couple years since We Are The 22 has been around Brooks says they’ve helped more than 180 people on the verge of committing suicide, and that doesn’t count the dozens more across the country he’s been able to link to services.

He also hopes the timing of his post will help even more veterans since We Are The 22 typically sees a spike in calls around the holidays.

“I feel personally, this is my opinion, that a lot of it is they’re dealing with their families. They’ve upset their families, pushed them away because of their addictions and problems, and now they have to confront it,” Brooks said. “I hope families really look around each other at their loved ones and see the struggles they’re in and combine together to get help.”

While Brooks never expected his post to get this much attention, he says it’s all worth it if he can help save one more vet.

“You can literally turn your entire life around,” he said.

You can find more information about We Are The 22 by clicking here.

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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.

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