Photo: Photo courtesy of Brian Kinsella
Brian Kinsella, an energy sector specialist at BNP Paribas in New York, is doing something truly remarkable for his two-week mandatory time away this year. At the end of September, he’s embarking on a cross-country motorcycle tour to help bring free mental health care to U.S. service members and veterans and raise awareness about soldier suicide.
Kinsella, a former U.S. Army captain, is the co-founder of Stop Soldier Suicide — a civilian not-for-profit organisation dedicated to preventing soldier suicide.
SSS aims to connect service members, both active and veteran status, in all branches of the military to free mental health care in order to prevent those who serve from taking their own lives. The organisation also focuses on raising civilian awareness to suicide in the U.S. military.
Kinsella’s 5,000 mile journey, which is being called “Soldiers Ride For Life”, will begin at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and he will ride through the Midwest, the south and Washington, D.C. before ending at the recruiting station in Times Square in New York City on October 12th.
During the two-week ride, Kinsella will make stops at 12 military installations where he plans to promote SSS’s mission, raise awareness about soldier suicide and form partnerships.
He’s also encouraging people to join him on different lengths of the ride to show their support.
“Our desire is for people to join the ride as I pass through towns. It will really show how much people care and support our brave veterans,” Kinsella said over coffee last week on September 11th in the Flatiron District.
Speaking of that date, Kinsella said that he made his decision to serve in the military on September 11, 2001.
“I was a senior in high school when 9/11 happened and that was the catalyst that drove me to say ‘I want to serve in the military and I want to be on the front-lines, whether it’s Marines or Army, and serve the country.'”
He received an Army ROTC scholarship to Johns Hopkins where he graduated in three-and-half years and immediately went on to active duty.
Shortly into his military career, Kinsella had his first experience with military suicide.
It was in the summer of 2006 when he was serving as a young platoon leader in Germany and an 18-year-old woman in the U.S. army slit her wrists in attempt to commit suicide, he said.
“For me it was very early on in my career, but it was something that resonated and stuck with me throughout my time.”
That wasn’t his only experience either.
In 2010, when he was an MBA student at the University of Louisville, a catastrophic earthquake devastated Haiti and his unit was being deployed to bring humanitarian aide.
Photo: Image courtesy of Brian Kinsella
Days before their deployment, a soldier in his unit took his own life.”It was something that stuck with me throughout my deployment to Haiti and I realised I was going to work on his plan to start Stop Soldier Suicide.”
Kinsella said he had to wait until he got out of the Army and transitioned off active duty to get started.
Upon returning from deployment to Haiti, Kinsella said he also found out that he would have to restart his MBA program with a different cohort.
Kinsella, who said he had always been interested in markets, started looking for a job in finance while also establishing Stop Soldier Suicide.
He said it took a lot of hard work to get a job on Wall Street.
“I worked my butt off using my networks,” he said. ” I sent out over, I think it was between 400 and 500 emails, which yielded 20 calls, which yielded 10 informational interviews, which yielded three interviews.”
Today the full-time energy sector specialist, who also spent his two-week vacation volunteering in Haiti last year, is looking forward to using his time away from the bank to help catapult Stop Soldier Suicide to being the “No. 1 capture organisation to help soldiers and veterans get free mental health care.”
And as for his military career, spending time in Europe, Iraq and Haiti, he said, “It really was a great experience and it’s a choice I would make again and again. I’m proud of service. I’m proud that I got to work and live abroad.”
You can follow Kinsella’s journey on Twitter @soldiersuicide.
Check out his planned route below.
Photo: via Stop Soldier Suicide
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