A Montgomery County, TX pathologist ruled Justin Nelzen, the 40-year-old owner of EquiPro, committed suicide by hanging. He died at his residence on Wednesday, January 11.
Nelzen worked as a farrier and horse trainer. He courageously saved more than 25 horses from drowning during Houston’s severe flooding in April 2016.
Extreme sports, including endurance racing, fueled Nelzen. He won the 2010 Mongol Derby in Mongolia. It is the world’s longest endurance race. In addition to being a certified SCUBA instructor, he also earned a second-degree black belt in karate.
Nelzen is survived by his two children, ages 14 and 13, his parents, a sister, grandparents, stepfather and extended family.
A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Nelzen served in Afghanistan, according to his mother.
Veterans Affairs reports veterans have a 21% greater chance of committing suicide than civilians.
Fellow military veteran Nikkie Reinert tells us Nelzen listened when others needed support. “All the while he’s saying this with that infectious smile on his face that you’d never imagine [he] was hiding so much pain.”
The two met as a part of an online support group. They lived 30-miles apart allowing them to lean on each other during their tribulations.
Veterans who experience trauma in war may suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and suicidal thoughts. Warning signs can include appearing sad, anxiety, agitation, dramatic mood changes, feelings of guilt and reckless behavior.
“I think it could’ve been a combination of guilt, PTSD, and alcohol setting it off,” Reinert adds regarding Nelzen’s suicide.
A crisis line for veterans provides confidential assistance 24 hours a day for veterans and their families. Online chat resources and texting are also available to make communicating easy.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also offers help to anyone in distress at 1-800-273-8255.
Reinert, says, “sometimes one person willing to listen is all it takes to bring someone back from the ledge.”