WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9) -- Only on 9, a Navy Captain speaks publicly about something rarely discussed openly: mental illness in the military.
Twenty-two service members commit suicide every month, and Captain Todd Kruder and his wife Sharon hope that by sharing their story, they will help reduce the stigma.
Andrea McCarren visited with the Kruders to talk about depression and hope.
"It's like being on a ship by yourself that's so, so close to the rocks and the fog, and you're the only one. It's dark, it's miserable and you could be crashing into those rocks at anytime. In fact, you almost want to. At a point you get to, you just want to," said Captain Todd Kruder.
He served nine months in Iraq, but it was his battle with severe depression that nearly claimed his life.
"Depression's like that fog. It's dark, it's gloomy, it's miserable," he said. Kruder has attempted suicide three times—once, nearly exercising himself to death, dropping a dangerous amount of weight. He worked out as often as seven times a day.
"Depression is in my life and it doesn't matter about rank, rate, where you come from, what you've done, how many deployments you've made, it doesn't matter," he said.
He also stood on a 5th floor balcony, ready to jump. But he says, he "chickened out." Another time, he was ready to take a fistful of sleeping pills, when his son walked in.
From the outside, Kruder appeared to have it all—a loving wife, five happy children and a successful career. But for more than five years, he has waged a daily battle against severe depression—a form of mental illness.
"It's as fatiguing as running a marathon. It's as fatiguing as lifting weights," he told us.
Kruder's wife Sharon said, "I still ask myself, 'How could I not have seen it?'"
She took his suicide attempts personally. She too felt like a failure.
"I felt guilty that this was this was going on and I had no clue," said Sharon. "What kind of wife doesn't know that her husband is that desperate to end his life?"
"She's my hero. She saved my life. A few times," said her husband, clutching his wife's hand.
The Kruders hope by telling their story, they will inspire others to get help.
Sharon said, "If you don't come forward, how are you going to get the help you need?"
Added her husband, "It's okay not to be okay. It's okay. Get help. The help is there. And there's hope."
Captain Kruder has written books about his battle with depression and his ongoing recovery.
If you need help, here are some resources:
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The number is: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The website is: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
The Military Crisis Line offers free and confidential support to service members. It's staffed by caring, qualified responders, many of whom have served in the military themselves. Call 1-800-273-8255 or go to www.militarycrisisline.net
If you are not in the military and need help with depression, see below list of some useful resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-NAMI
Freedom from Fear: 718-351-1717