Suicide is complicated, tragic and affects a huge number of people each year, including those within the Veteran population. According to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Veterans represented 13.7% of all suicides among adults in the United States in 2019. As one of the leading causes of death in the United States, suicide continues to impact many of us, but it can be prevented. Evidence shows that talking about it, providing support services and following up with each other are just some of the ways we can help ourselves and each other.
We can all take action to prevent suicide. By learning more, talking about it openly and accessing resources designed to help, we can make a difference.
Get Immediate Help
The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 988 then press 1 if you need immediate support or are concerned about someone. This new, shorter number makes it easy to remember and find someone to listen when you need it most. You can chat online or text 838255 as well. Trained counselors are ready to provide support and get you the resources you deserve. Count on us to Be There® when you need help.
Risk Factors and Warning Signs
Knowing the risk factors and warning signs connected to suicide can help you recognize when you or someone you know needs help. Risk factors include things such as mental health disorders, alcohol and substance use disorders and hopelessness. Warning signs that someone may be at immediate risk for attempting suicide include talking or thinking about death, talking about feeling hopeless and withdrawing from family and friends. To learn more about these important factors related to suicide, check out Make a Difference: Stay Connected and Informed to Help Prevent Suicide.
What to Do When You’re in Crisis
- Recognize your personal warning signs. What thoughts, moods and behaviors let you know that you’re in trouble? Knowing when these things “appear” can help you combat them.
- Learn coping strategies that work for you. List things that you can do to help you cope with troubling emotions. Exercising, doing breathing techniques and connecting with others all may help.
- Build a support network to help you in a crisis. Do you have friends or family members you can talk to? Reach out to people who are supportive and can help.
- Get in touch with mental health care resources that can help address your needs. Put the Veterans Crisis Line number in your phone (988), and check out other resources designed for specific people such as Veterans in crisis, LGBTQ+ members in crisis, young people and more. Your VA can help as well.
- Ensure your environment is safe. Having easy access to lethal means is a known risk factor for suicide. Work with your support network to find ways to limit your access to things such as firearms, medications or other dangerous things.
- Read real stories of hope and recovery. You’re not alone.
What to Do When Someone You Know Is in Crisis
- Know the risk factors and warning signs discussed above.
- Be direct. Talk openly about suicide and ask if they’re considering it. Research shows that talking about it openly may reduce suicide ideation.
- Be willing to listen in a non-judgmental way. Allow people to express their feelings without judgment. This isn’t the time for lectures or debates. Listening, showing up and being there can provide a person with a feeling of connectedness. This is a key protective factor against suicide. Take the time. Make the time. Be there.®
- Don’t keep it a secret. You may be the only person who knows that can take action. If you’re worried about what steps to take, contact a professional who can help.
- Reduce access to lethal means. Putting time and distance between the person and their chosen method for suicide, such as a firearm or medication, can help.
- Get help from people or agencies that specialize in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Find out what resources are available in your area and encourage them to reach out. VA has several mental health resources designed to address Veteran suicide. If you don’t think they’ll reach out, you can. Suicide prevention resources offer a lot of support to people who are trying to help others in crisis.
- Follow up and stay involved. A text, call or visit can help increase feelings of connectedness.
Remember, we can all take action to prevent suicide. By learning more, talking about it openly and accessing resources designed to help, we can make a difference.