Mother of soldier hopes those in need use new suicide prevention lifeline she pushed for after son's death

Lori McCoy
Posted at 10:58 PM, Jul 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 14:15:49-04

In March 2012, Ethan McCoy was off to Army basic training. He was living his dream to join the National Guard and go to Air Traffic Control school. His mother Lori had to meet with the Army recruiter and sign off on her son going since he was still 17.

“Ethan was just so passionate,” Lori McCoy said.

She said her son was the type of person who would gladly give the shirt off his back to help someone in need. His character was on full display while attending air traffic control training when he called his mom with an update.

“He said we’re doing suicide watches and I said, 'What’s going on?' He said, 'I’m sitting with my buddy, we’re taking turns sitting with him because we’re fearful something is going to happen,'” she explained.

His willingness to ensure a fellow soldier was okay aligned with his ethos. The problem was Ethan McCoy didn’t speak openly about having experienced bouts of depression.

After graduating from his military school Ethan transferred from Indiana National Guard to Florida.

“I know that was his dream, I knew he loved Florida,” McCoy said. “He was actually interviewing with Miami International airport to become an air traffic controller.”

She says he had progressed through the second stage of the interview process, and he was feeling stressed. On top of that other life events added to his overall quality of mental health.

“There were a lot of changes going on in his life and I could tell he was really struggling with depression,” McCoy said.

Her motherly instinct was spot on, however, a conversation on having her son get help to better cope with it didn’t go the way she thought it would.

“I knew he was struggling with depression and Ethan had struggled with depression off and on throughout his life and when we were talking, I said Ethan I know this is really tough for you, I said you’ve been on medication before please consider talking to somebody and getting on some medication just short time. He said mom I can’t, and I said Ethan you can,” she said. “He said mom I can’t I’m National Guard and I’m ATC. I said Ethan your life is more important than National Guard and ATC and he said no mom National Guard and ATC is more important and two days later Ethan died by suicide.”

Depression is a disqualifying disorder and it’s likely Ethan was concerned he would be booted from the National Guard and not allowed to work as a flight controller if he went to a doctor and went on medication.

McCoy wrote lawmakers with Ethan’s story and pushed for support of the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number 988, which launches July 16.

She said she hopes people who need mental health treatment will find the help they need.

“Talk, talk don’t be afraid to talk," McCoy said. "Don’t be afraid to share. Pick up that phone call 988, tomorrow comes, tomorrow will be better. Pick up the phone and just reach out to talk to someone."

She continues to advocate for more ways to prevent suicides and takes part in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Walk. The Cincinnati walk is Oct. 9 at Sawyer Point. You can find out more information by contacting Michael Cotrell via or 614-542-9867.

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