Preventing suicide in military families
If a friend tells you they are thinking about killing themselves, take it seriously. If you're looking for additional resources, our general resources are also available.
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.
Being supportive of a Veteran who's experiencing a mental illness or just anyone in general, starts by listening and letting them know that what they're experiencing is real and that you're there to help. And even if you don't have the words to say, that's okay too. Just giving them the space to talk.
On Memorial Day, we remember those who served our country and died in combat. But what about the veterans who die by suicide after the war? Many of our troops fight a different battle, waged within their own minds, upon returning home.
United States Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than Americans who never served in the military.
Suicide prevention is about more than just improving access to mental health care. That’s why we’re working with AFSP and other suicide prevention leaders to empower people in our communities nationwide — the people who interact with veterans every day — to take action and provide support.
Supporting Veteran and Service member suicide prevention is one of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s top public policy priorities.
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
Suicide warning signs
If a person talks about:
- Killing themselves
- Feeling hopeless
- Having no reason to live
- Being a burden to others
- Feeling trapped
- Unbearable pain
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods.
- Loss of interest
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
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)
Office of Warrior Care Policy
Psychological Health Center of Excellence
Veterans Administration (VA) resources
VA's Caregiver Support Line (CSL)