Lack of help led veteran to fiery suicide attempt, wife says
Chaoe Perry had been begging for help.
The U.S. Army veteran was seeing a therapist and a psychiatric doctor through the Veterans Administration for about 2½ years, according to his wife.
But then his doctor left, he stopped taking his medication and his appointments got farther and farther apart, Jasmine Lynne DeLeon-Perry says.
On Saturday, the 24-year-old Somers Point man doused himself with rubbing alcohol and used a lighter to set himself on fire before walking into the convenience store of an Atlantic City gas station.
A gas station attendant used a fire extinguisher to put the flames out, police said.
“I didn’t appreciate how they just made it seem like he was a crazy person,” DeLeon-Perry says of her husband. “Like saying they didn’t know his motive for doing this. He has been seeking help for a while.”
The case is reminiscent of an Egg Harbor Township man’s suicide five years ago.
Charles Ingram III, 51, set himself on fire outside the Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Northfield in March 2016.
The Navy veteran left behind a wife and two children.
“It gets so bad because they’re not getting any resolution,” said Bob Frolow, Atlantic County’s director of Veteran Affairs. “They do things you and I would never think about.”
He quoted the well-known statistic of 22 veteran suicides a day. Frolow said that’s low.
For example, it doesn’t include things like fatal one-vehicle crashes that he believes are sometimes suicides.
He also knows more needs to be done, but the movement toward a solution has been slow.
“I still think the right people have to sit down and discuss ways to resolve this,” Frolow said. “We’ve been trying to do this for the longest time. It just keeps getting swept under the carpet.
“Then there’s another suicide or some foolish thing, and we’re right back to square one,” he added.
Meanwhile, Perry remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition.
He has a collapsed lung and has to get more surgery, DeLeon-Perry said.
A friend set up a GoFundMe to help the family after she had to take time off from work to be there for her husband and tend to their three children.
“Hopefully, this young man will pull through but the (mental) scars are still going to be there,” Frolow said.
He noted that services slow down this time of year, which is in stark contrast to the need that the holidays bring up. In addition, there are the effects of COVID on families and their livelihoods.
“Right now we’re just spinning wheels,” Frolow said. “I’m kind of ashamed to say that but there’s too many of these suicides (and attempts) taking place.
“The counselors would like to resolve it, the service officers would like to resolve it,” he said. “But we’ve got to get our minds together to know which way to go. It’s a subject we don’t want to talk about but it’s a subject we have to talk about.”