How do I know if I am suicidal?
Have you been thinking that you would be better off dead? Do you wish you could go to sleep and not wake up? Perhaps you have been planning how you would end your life or making preparations for when you’re not here. You may have actually begun to take action to hurt yourself in a way that could kill you. These are increasingly serious levels of what are called suicidal behaviors.
If you have serious thoughts of death or suicide or are thinking about hurting or killing yourself, it's important that you talk to someone right away. To reach the Veterans Crisis Line, Dial 988 then Press 1, use the online chat service, or send a text message to 838255. The Veterans Crisis Line provides free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you're thinking about killing yourself, you can also contact the Veterans Crisis Line. It's better to call sooner, rather than wait for problems to get worse.
Most people who consider suicide have problems they think they can never overcome. They think that no one can help them and that suicide is the only way out. People who are considering suicide may feel:
- Helpless, like there is nothing they can do to make things better
- Hopeless, thinking their problem cannot be solved by them or anyone else
- Worthless, thinking they're unable to help themselves or feeling like a failure
- Hateful toward themselves
- Like they are a burden to others
- As if the pain of living is too much to bear
Some Veterans’ pain may come from having been through traumatic events like the death of someone close to them, seeing people die during their military service, or sexual assault or abuse. Other Veterans’ difficulties may be the result of a major setback such as ending a marriage, losing a job, or feeling as if their honor is lost. Some people may think about suicide due to the buildup of stress, depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress that makes life seem as if it’s no longer bearable.
No matter the reason, people don't attempt suicide because they want to die, but because they see suicide as the only way to escape the pain of living. It is important to realize that there are many ways to handle any problem — even if you can’t see a solution yourself. Sometimes you need an outside perspective to see new answers to personal problems.
Medical conditions such as depression, posttraumatic stress, and chronic pain may lead to thoughts of suicide. There are effective treatments and resources for each of these conditions.
What are the warning signs of suicide?
There are different types of warning signs you may see in yourself or another person who may be in crisis. All warning signs require attention, and some require immediate action. Some people will make jokes about suicide when they are having suicidal thoughts. Others may even appear calmer or happier than usual because they have decided to attempt suicide and feel relief at making a decision. Not everyone who makes a suicide attempt shows warning signs. However, warning signs of suicide should always be taken seriously, even if the person seems to be joking.
“I know a lot of people think about suicide. I know I have. But committing suicide is the exception, and you need to ask for help.”
If you recognize any of the following signs of suicide in yourself or others, you should reach out for support:
- Feeling hopeless, trapped, or like there’s no way out
- Having persistent or worsening trouble sleeping or eating
- Feeling anxious or agitated
- Feeling like there is no reason to live
- Feeling rage or anger
- Engaging in risky activities without thinking of the consequences
- Increasing alcohol or drug misuse
- Withdrawing from family and friends
The following warning signs require immediate attention:
- Making a plan for how or when to attempt suicide
- Frequently talking, writing, or drawing about death or about items that can cause physical harm
- Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities without thinking about the consequences
- Behaving violently such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights, or engaging in acts of self-harm
- Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
- Acting as though you have a “death wish”; tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
- Giving away prized possessions
- Putting your affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
- Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming yourself
It is important to get help right away if you notice any of the signs above. Getting support can help you see that solutions to your problems exist and that suicide is not the answer.
What is the treatment for suicidal thoughts and behavior?
No matter the problem you are dealing with, there is support available, and there are things you can do to solve it. Veterans of all ages and eras have sought help for suicidal thoughts and behavior and are living better lives today. You can hear stories from fellow Veterans and Service members about their own battles with suicidal thoughts and behavior and how they overcame them.
Treatments to cope with suicidal thoughts and behaviors can involve counseling, medication, or a combination of these. Counseling can help you see new solutions and perspectives that may not have occurred to you, and give you better ways of coping. Medications affect the chemicals in your brain that may be contributing to your feeling down and thoughts of suicide.
“I thought, ‘What’s the purpose of me living?’ I really didn’t want to be here anymore. But what saved me was finding this great therapist at the VA after I admitted myself into the hospital. That was the first time that I was able to open up about what I had been through.”
In addition to treatment, you can adjust your lifestyle to help prevent or deal with suicidal thoughts. Be sure to take time to:
- Set reasonable goals for yourself.
- Cut back on obligations if you are overworked.
- Spend time with family, friends, or other Veterans to avoid feeling isolated.
- Exercise and get enough sleep.
- Slow down, using relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing.
What can I do to cope with suicidal thoughts and behaviors?
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or wish you were dead, you should talk to someone right away. Your family and friends may already know that you’re having a tough time. You may want to turn to them and let them know what you’re feeling and thinking.
You can call the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 988 then Press 1, use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat, or send a text message to the Veterans Crisis Line at 838255. The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
You can also take a confidential self-check quiz to better understand what you’re going through, learn if it may be a good idea to seek professional help, and see how you might benefit from VA or community-based services. Your anonymous answers to a brief list of questions will be reviewed by an experienced counselor who will then send you a personal response to a secure website. The counselor will also provide you with resources and options for further follow-up.
Take the next step to connect with care.
Every day, Veterans from all military service branches and eras connect with proven resources and effective treatments. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.
Read VA's latest coronavirus information. If you have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, please call before you visit your local medical center or clinic. If you have an appointment, consider making it a telehealth appointment.
New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.
- Getting started is simple. Create a free account online to help ease your enrollment process. To prepare to apply for VA health care in person, by telephone, or by mail, explore VA’s “How to Apply” page.
- Not sure whether you are eligible for VA health care benefits? Read about eligibility for VA health care.
- Unsure of what kind of help you need? Call 1-877-222-VETS (1-877-222-8387) to find the right resources to meet your needs, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 1-800-877-8339.
- Veterans’ family members and caregivers can see whether they qualify for VA medical benefits as a spouse, surviving spouse, dependent child, or caregiver. Explore family and caregiver health benefits.
Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.
- If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
- With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
- If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.
What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.
- The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
- Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
- VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
- Community-based Vet Centers provide confidential counseling, community engagement and referral services to eligible individuals and their families. You don’t need to be enrolled in VA healthcare or have a service connection to receive services. Find a Vet Center near you or call 1-877-927-8387, 24/7 to talk with a fellow Veteran about your experiences.
What about support beyond VA?
There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.
Explore these resources for more information about signs of suicide in Veterans.
Learn more about what you can do if you are experiencing specific concerns related to suicide, such as depression, bipolar disorder, stress, or posttraumatic stress.