Concussions, PTSD and suicide prevention

Tune into this week’s episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast for a somber look into the relationship between head injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide. As part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, each episode will feature an interview related to the topic of PTSD and suicide awareness.  

Please note that this episode may be triggering for some individuals. If you are dealing with a crisis and need immediate help, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 988 then press 1.

The special guests in this week’s episode are:

• Chris Nowinski, a former college football player and professional wrestler who founded the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF). “It was fun until I got kicked in the head too many times,” he said of his pro wrestling career. “I learned very quickly what I thought I knew about concussions wasn’t the truth.”

• Daryl Adamson, a retired Navy commander who lost his son, Cameron, to suicide. Cameron suffered several concussions and brain injuries as a high school wrestler and during his time with the Marine Corps. After leaving the Marines, “things just didn’t come together, click for him,” his father said. Cameron died by suicide in 2021 at age 22.

Daryl donated Cameron's brain for research to the CLF where researchers diagnosed him with stage 1 CTE. The degenerative brain disease, called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, cannot be detected among the living. The foundation’s mission is to collect brains from families of CTE victims and pass those along to researchers.

“We are trying to figure out everything about CTE as fast as we can,” Nowinski said. “What we are learning is the more hits to the head you take and the more years you are exposed to it, the greater your risk of having it.”

The elder Adamson wrote this about his son and his experience as a suicide loss survivor. 

On the podcast, he noted that Cameron would tell everyone he was fine, although he was struggling. That’s a major component of The American Legion’s “Be the One,” campaign that aims at reducing the rate of veteran suicide in part by eliminating the perceived stigma of mental health treatment.

The foundation was featured in American Legion in a two-part series a couple of years ago. You can learn more about it in part one here and part two here.

Other recent episodes related to this topic include:

• To kick off Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Tango Alpha Lima welcomed Dr. David Rudd, a psychologist with the Army’s 2nd Armored Division during the Gulf War, has been studying the issue for decades. In this episode, he discusses current research, Be the One and more.

• Last week’s episode featured American Legion Post 539 in New Bern, N.C., which demonstrates how it can “Be the One” in numerous ways, including its annual March for the 22 fundraiser. Post 539 Commander Liz Hartman and member Adin Colon talk about how they have grown the annual Veterans Day event.

• A bonus podcast episode recorded last month at the 103rd American Legion national convention, VA Secretary Denis McDonough discussed Be the One and other topics. Catch the episode here.

More than 140 Tango Alpha Lima episodes are all available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on iTunes, Stitcher or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available for viewing at the Legion’s YouTube channel.