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Man honors brother by fighting veterans suicide crisis

Man honors brother by fighting veterans suicide crisis
Posted at 4:46 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 17:49:38-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Brandt McCartney said his brother’s death drives him now to help others.

“I grieve through telling my brother’s story," he said. "Having him and the man that he was catapulted change. And I get to talk about my best friend and my brother every day."

Marine Captain Mathew Brewer died by suicide last year. On the outside, Brewer was a football star and larger than life military figure.

McCartney said traumatic brain injuries and PTSD led to mental illness.

“He was my best friend, my biggest mentor," McCartney said. "The man I looked up to the most in life. I never had these hard conversations about mental health with him because of our relationship and what he thought it meant to be a man."

Now, through a nonprofit called, "The 38 Challenge," McCartney is trying to de-stigmatize mental illness and let even the toughest people know it’s OK to be vulnerable.

He also said it’s crucial to identify how brain injuries affect one’s behavior, so these veterans don’t think they are simply crazy. An estimated 22 veterans die by suicide every single day.

McCartney met with other veteran advocates at Tampa’s VFW Post 4321 to share ideas and ways to reach even more vets who are struggling.

“Especially with COVID, the pandemic, and then Afghanistan, one of the biggest reasons we have for veterans suicide is isolation," Post Commander Matthew Hall said. "And, we’ve just created a country that is focused on isolation. So, you are seeing this compounded."

Miss Pinellas County Kylie Blakely is showing you don’t have to be a veteran to fight this crisis. She is using her platform to spread awareness and wants to eventually work for a VA.

“Over the past three years I’ve worked with Stop Soldier Suicide, Burn Pits 360, the Irreverent Warriors Foundation, the USO, and various other veteran-based organizations to help give back because while I can’t serve, I can serve those who did,” she said.

Those in need can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.