Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog provided courtesy of the Real Warriors Campaign. Navy Suicide Prevention Branch is a proud partner of the Real Warriors Campaign. To learn more, visit www.realwarriors.net.
Suicide is a national health problem that is preventable. Its prevention is of special concern to the military community because active-duty service members and veterans account for approximately 20-22 percent of all deaths from suicide in the United States.
Use the information below to learn how to recognize suicide risk. With this knowledge, you can help your loved one get the care and support that he or she needs.
To get help right away, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1. Please call 911 for emergencies.
Risk Factors and Warning Signs of Suicide
Service members and veterans face many stressors that can increase their risk for suicide. Risk factors include both combat and peacetime challenges, like traumatic experiences and frequent moves. Left unaddressed, stressors can become overwhelming. Service members and veterans may be more vulnerable to substance use disorders and mood disorders because of high levels of stress. Both disorders are associated with military suicide. Other stressors that increase suicide risk include relationship problems, work problems and disciplinary or legal issues.
Some behaviors may be warning signs that indicate a warrior is at high risk for suicide. If any of the following are impacting your warrior’s daily life—or are new, persistent or worsening—you should encourage your warrior to get help right away.
- Talking or writing about self-harm, suicide or death
- Having trouble sleeping or oversleeping
- Withdrawing from friends, family or society
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Engaging in risky or reckless behaviors
- Experiencing rage or excessive anger
- Expressing anxiety, agitation or hopelessness
- Showing dramatic changes in mood
How to Get Help for Your Loved One
Each service has a suicide prevention program that involves observation, dialogue, support and action. Examples include the Army’s “ACE: Ask, Care, Escort” and the Navy’s “ACT: Ask, Care, Treat.” You can use any of these approaches to help a service member or veteran. It is most important to recognize when a warrior is in crisis. Then talk to that warrior, provide support and get help to prevent suicide.
If you think someone is at risk, you can:
- Ask the person if he or she is thinking about suicide. Be caring, but direct.
- Call 911 if they are an immediate danger to themselves or those around them.
- Remove weapons, drugs or other dangerous items from their environment.
- Stay with the person in crisis until help arrives.
- If you are on the phone with a person in crisis, stay on the line with that person and use another phone to call 911.
If you or a warrior you know needs help, there are many resources available including:
- Military Crisis Line – 800-273-8255, press 1 or live chat
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255 or live chat
- Marine Corps DSTRESS Line: 877-476-7734 or live chat
- Coast Guard Suicide Prevention: 855-CG-SUPRT (855-247-8778)
Service-Specific Suicide Prevention Programs and Resources
- Air Force Suicide Prevention
- Army Suicide Prevention Program
- Marine Corps Community Services: Suicide Prevention
- Navy Suicide Prevention Branch (OPNAV N171)
- National Guard Suicide Prevention
Remember, reaching out is a sign of strength. If you or a loved one needs additional support, contact the DCoE Outreach Center 24/7 to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants, call 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also visit our “Seek Help, Find Care” page to see a list of key psychological health resources.