The calls come in from all over the country at all hours of the day. They come from active-duty vets in the field, and from vets trying to transition back into civilian life, Tell me how to get unstuck before I pull the trigger.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It is a reminder that mental health does not have to be a battle waged on your own.
As you can tell this is going to be a lengthy but informative post. We cannot be afraid to talk about the suicides of our troops and their families. We must not only talk about it-we must SHOUT about it-and do more than post on blogs.
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death among Americans and the second leading cause of death in the military. The rate of suicide in the military was 22 per day in February of this year. The statistics are shocking, but research shows that public awareness, education and treatment are crucial in the prevention of suicide.
Most of us have seen news reports about brave servicemen and women living with grave injuries, both physical and psychological. We've also seen the dire consequences when the psychological effects of war are not treated. The majority of U.S. soldiers who served in the war on terror were exposed to some kind of traumatic, combat-related situation, such as being attacked or ambushed (92%), seeking dead bodies (94.5%), being shot at (95%), and/or knowing someone who was seriously injured or killed (86.5%). Recent findings now document the secondary consequences of being exposed to traumatic events of your comrades, even if you never served overseas. The suicide rate of the National Guard and Reserves has more than doubled.
How can we expect men and women to return to civilian society unmarked by their experiences, by what they've seen and been a part of? And more, how can we help them heal?
The American people owe so much to these individuals. Now is the time to play a role in preventing suicide—to reach out in a timely manner to someone at risk, especially current and former service members, and encourage them to trust and seek help. Let them know that there are constructive ways to resolve whatever challenges they face. It is a myth that seeking help is a sign of weakness. The truth is seeking mental health treatment is a choice that embodies moral courage and integrity. It is a sign of strength and effective treatment is available.
Here's what you can do.
Learn to recognize the risk of suicide and let Veterans know that caring, confidential support is only a call, click or text away. Families, friends and co-workers need to work together to provide a network of support for Veterans in our communities. We're all in this together.
When a Veteran is in crisis, even one small act can make a lifesaving difference. Begin the conversation. Start with compassion and listen, without questions. Hear their story, just listen. The telling of a story can be very powerful healing force. "If I had been through what you have, I would probably feel the same way", can go a long way in starting the process for seeking help.
Encourage a Veteran who is a risk to get help and know where to turn during a suicide related crisis. Remind them that it takes courage to seek help.
Suicide Signs Unique to Veterans:
Experts on suicide prevention say for veterans there are some particular signs to watch for:
- Calling old friends, particularly military friends, to say goodbye
- Cleaning a weapon that they may have as a souvenir
- Visits to graveyards
- Obsessed with news coverage of the war, the military channel
- Wearing their uniform or part of their uniform, boots, etc.
- Talking about how honorable it is to be a soldier
- Sleeping more (sometimes the decision to commit suicide brings a sense of peace of mind, and they sleep more to withdraw)
- Becoming overprotective of children
- Standing guard of the house, perhaps while everyone is asleep staying up to "watch over" the house, obsessively locking doors, windows
- If they are on medication, stopping medication and/or hording medication
- Hording alcohol -- not necessarily hard alcohol, could be wine
- Spending spree, buying gifts for family members and friends "to remember by"
- Defensive speech "you wouldn't understand," etc.
- Stop making eye contact or speaking with others.
Here's Where to Get Help:
NEED HELP RIGHT NOW!
The Military Crisis Line is available 24/7/365
CALL: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1
The following sites all have excellent resources. Most are free and include toll-free numbers, texting, online chat and email communication options. Click on the links provided to visit their websites. All links will open in a new tab or window.
The National Suicide Prevention/Military and Veteran Lifeline: offers free and confidential support to service members in crisis or anyone who knows a service member who is. The service is staffed by caring, qualified responders from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), many who have served in the military themselves.
Veterans Crisis Line: Since 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 890,000 calls and made more than 30,000 lifesaving rescues. Support is offered through the crisis line, online chat, and text-messaging services for all service members (active, National Guard and reserve) and veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by visiting their website at.
Military Crisis Line: Support for Service members, their families and friends. Services are available even if members are not registered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or enrolled in VA health care.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: The leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.
Suicide Prevention Resource Council: Promoting a public health approach to suicide prevention.
Military OneSource: Service members, family members, service providers, and command-welcome to Military OneSource. Policies, procedures, timely articles, cutting-edge social media tools, and support. All in one place, empowering our military community.
Find a Therapist
Afterdeployment.org: An all-purpose resource for active-duty personnel, veterans, families (kids and teens, too) and health care providers on issues ranging from post-traumatic stress and anger to those involving work, finances and substance abuse. You can also join a workshop, participate in research, take self-assessments and find additional resources.
MakeTheConnection.net: Meet other military brothers and sisters with similar concerns.
PTSD Coach: PTSD Coach, provides users with education about PTSD, information about professional care, a self-assessment for PTSD, opportunities to find support, and tools that can help with managing the stresses of daily life with PTSD. Tools are based on evidence-based PTSD treatment and range from relaxation skills and positive self-talk to anger management and other common self-help strategies. Users can customize tools based on their preferences and can integrate their own contacts, photos, and music.
Breathe2Relax: A portable stress management tool to reduce stress and calm the "fight or flight" response.
T2 Mood Tracker: A diary to record emotions and behaviors on six pre-loaded scales (PTSD, stress, brain injury, depression, anxiety and general well-being).
Military Branch Specific Sites And Services
The Army's Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program (CSF2) is designed to build resilience and enhance performance of the Army Family -- Soldiers, their Families, and Army Civilians. CSF2 does this by providing hands-on training and self-development tools so that members of the Army Family are better able to cope with adversity, perform better in stressful situations, and thrive in life.
The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. DHCC works to improve psychological health and deployment-related health care for our nation's warriors and their families.
Suicide Prevention Program information: The Army's comprehensive list of resources.
The Army's Ready and Resilient campaign offers a unique blend of support options.
Navy Military Crisis line The Navy Suicide Prevention Program outlines procedures implemented by every command. It is made up of four basic components; Training, Intervention, Response and Reporting.
Air Force Medical Service - Suicide Prevention Suicide prevention remains a top priority of Air Force leadership, and we remain committed to doing everything possible to save lives. The Air Force Suicide Prevention Program (AFSPP), launched in 1996 and fully implemented by 1997, emphasizes leadership involvement and a community approach to reducing deaths from suicide. The program is an integrated network of policy and education that focuses on reducing suicide through the early identification and treatment of those at risk. It uses leaders as role models and agents of change, establishes expectations for Airman behavior regarding awareness of suicide risk, develops population skills and knowledge, and analyzes every suicide.
DSTRESSLINE: Marines -- both active and reserve -- and their families can speak to a Marine veteran for any kind of help.
Coast Guard Suicide Prevention Program: This Program applies to all Coast Guard active duty and reserve personnel and appropriated civilian and non-appropriated fund employees and their families. It also applies to other Uniformed Services members and their families while either serving with the Coast Guard or using Coast Guard facilities.
National Guard Suicide Prevention: Includes a six-part series examining why some guard members choose suicide.
Let's SHOUT about Suicide Prevention. Tweet your friends and loved ones with the following message: "One small act can make the difference." This #SuicidePreventionMonth, help #Veterans access the support they've earned.
Vets Helping Heroes (VHH)
VHH is dedicated to making as many service dogs as possible available to veterans and the men and women of the armed services. These professionally trained dogs are better than a pill and although they don't replace therapy, they are invaluable in helping our nation's heroes who gave so much for the freedom we enjoy today. Please read more about us on our website and visit and "Like" us on FaceBook.