Ways to Prevent Suicide in Your Community
September 01, 2017 | 4-minute read
September is Suicide Prevention Month. Across the country, groups are engaging in discussions about mental health and Veteran suicide prevention in their communities.
The first step in helping someone through a crisis is identifying when and how to intervene. Here’s a list of warning signs specific to Veteran suicide, along with ways to reach out and help a Veteran in crisis get on a path to mental health recovery.
Warning Signs of Potential Suicide Risk
Many Veterans show no direct intent to harm themselves before they do so, but some actions and feelings can be a sign that a Veteran needs help and may indicate a risk of harming themselves.
Veterans who are at risk for suicide often show signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and/or hopelessness, such as:
- 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
Learn more about suicide warning signs.
Starting the Conversation
If a Veteran family member or friend is showing one or more of these signs of risk, you can start a conversation to help the Veteran open up and to find out how you might be able to help. Ask questions such as:
- “When did you first start feeling like this?”
- “Did something happen that made you begin to feel this way?”
When responding to answers from a Veteran, simple, encouraging feedback goes a long way in showing support and encouraging them to seek help.
Beyond conversations, there are other ways to let a Veteran know you care. If you know what might be causing them stress and anxiety, think about ways to help out. For example, if a Veteran is feeling overwhelmed at home, offer to make a meal or to babysit from time to time. If someone is feeling lonely, consider making a plan to meet up for coffee or dinner to spend some quality time together. These small actions can help a Veteran feel more connected, supported, and ready to think about their mental health. For other small ways to reach out, visit VA.gov/REACH.
Warning Signs of Imminent Suicide Risk
In some cases, a Veteran family member or friend may be in a major crisis and showing signs of imminent suicide risk. The following warning signs require urgent attention and immediate action:
- Making a plan for how or when to attempt suicide
- Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast or running red lights — seemingly without thinking
- Showing violent behavior, such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights, or engaging in self-destructive behavior; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger; or seeking revenge
- Giving away prized possessions, putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
- Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself
Veterans who are in emotional distress and are showing warning signs for suicide can contact the 24-hour Veterans Crisis Line for free, confidential support: Dial 988 then Press 1, use the online chat, or text to 838255. Caring, specially trained responders are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to speak to Veterans and their caregivers, family members, or friends. Visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for more information.
If you believe a Veteran is at immediate risk for suicide, you need to call local emergency services at 911. Remember:
- Never negotiate with someone who has a gun. Get to safety and call 911.
- If the Veteran has taken pills or harmed himself or herself in some way, call 911.