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Preventing suicide in military families

If a friend tells you they are thinking about killing themselves, take it seriously.

Be smart about mental health

Depression, PTSD, Bipolar, substance use disorder: these and other mental health conditions are serious illnesses, and serious illnesses that warrant support and treatment. No combat experience necessary: more than half of military suicides involve soldiers who have never been deployed.

If you think you may be depressed, talk to a mental health professional — the sooner you treat the illness, the faster you’ll recover. If you are worried about someone, assume you are the only one who will reach out, and encourage them to get treatment.

Someone considering suicide is experiencing a life-threatening health crisis and may not believe they can be helped. Work with them to address their access to lethal means, such as firearms or drugs and help them secure them or store off-site. Stay with them and call the Military & Veteran Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255. 

Be sure to follow up with them after the crisis to see how they’re doing. Find more information about how to help someone in need.

Soldier in military dress

Stories

Warning signs of mental health need

  • Cleaning a souvenir weapon
  • Visiting graveyards
  • Obsession with news coverage of the war, or the military channel
  • Wearing uniform off duty
  • Being overprotective of children
  • Standing guard of the house, obsessively locking doors and windows
  • Stopping or hoarding medication
  • Hoarding alcohol
  • Defensive speech: “You wouldn’t understand”
  • Avoiding eye contact
Soldier in helicopter

Suicide warning signs

Talk

If a person talks about:

  • Killing themselves
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Unbearable pain

Mood

People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation
  • Agitation
  • Rage

Behavior

Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss, or change.

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression
  • Fatigue
Soldier at table during briefing

Military suicide prevention resources

If you are having thoughts of suicide, talk to a buddy, family member, health professional or call the Military & Veteran Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255. Press 1 for Military and Veterans.

Cohen’s Veterans Network (clinics serving Veterans across the country)
https://www.cohenveteransnetwork.org/

Military and Veteran Crisis Line
1-800-273-TALK (8255) Press 1
Phone or Text 24/7
veteranscrisisline.net

Vets 4 Warriors
855-838-8255
vets4warriors.com

Office of Warrior Care Policy
warriorcare.dodlive.mil

Psychological Health Center of Excellence
pdhealth.mil/resources/call-centers

InTransition
1-800-424-7877
pdhealth.mil/resources/intransition

Military One Source
1-800-342-9647
militaryonesource.mil

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors [TAPS]
1-800-959-8277
taps.org

Veterans Administration (VA) resources
mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention

VA's Caregiver Support Line (CSL)
1-855-260-3274

Treatment

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