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Getting Help for Veterans at Risk for Suicide

What can you do if you are worried that a Veteran may be thinking about suicide? If you care about a Veteran that seems to be struggling, or you suspect may be struggling, it can feel overwhelming – especially if you’re unsure of how to respond.

How can I know if a Veteran needs help?

Many Veterans in crisis will show direct warning signs that could mean they may be seriously thinking about suicide.

These could include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves

  • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching methods

  • Giving away possessions

  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, or making a will

  • Getting guns, pills, or other things to hurt themselves

If you notice any of the above, it is important to reach out right away for help.

You may notice other more indirect signs, or see changes in your loved one that could mean that they are having suicidal thoughts. If you notice these behaviors, please ask your loved one directly if they are having suicidal thoughts. Sometimes people are afraid to ask about suicide, because they worry that asking may put the idea in someone’s head and make things worse. Research shows that this is not the case, so please do not be afraid to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” There are also trainings that can help you better prepare for a conversation about suicide.

Other possible warning signs of suicide

Veterans may talk about

Veterans may show changes in mood and behavior

Veterans may seem

Feeling hopeless

Have frequent dramatic mood changes


Feeling trapped

Neglect personal welfare and/or personal appearance


Being a burden

Withdraw from family and friends

Down or depressed

Having no sense of purpose

Lose interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things they used to care about

Angry or short-tempered

Feeling like life is not worth living

Unable to sleep, or sleep all the time



Increase use of alcohol or drugs



Do poorly at work or school



Act recklessly or engage in risky activities


How do I get help for a Veteran I care about?

Family, friends, and caregivers are often the first to realize that a Veteran may be in crisis and need support. You may have noticed some of the warning signs described above. Or you may have a loved one that is thinking about suicide. You and your loved one are not alone. There are services out there to help link Veterans to the support and treatment they need. Most importantly, there are treatments proven to treat the many causes of suicidal behavior. There is hope.

For more information

Veterans Crisis Line. First, if a Veteran you care about appears to be in distress, or you recognize some of the signs described above, please contact the Veterans Crisis Line.

The Veterans Crisis Line is trained to help Veterans’ families and friends make sure their loved ones get care they need. This service is always free, and open to not only Veterans but spouses, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, and caregivers. You may choose whether to call 800-273-8255, and press 1, text 838255, or chat. The lines are staffed by trained, caring responders, many of whom are Veterans themselves and understand what you may be facing. The crisis line also serves Service members, National Guard and Reserves, and their family members and friends.

Other services are also available to support you, your family, and other loved ones

VA Locator Tool. Search local VA resources by zip code or state, and filter by facility type (medical center, outpatient clinics, Vet Centers, and suicide prevention coordinators).

S.A.V.E. This video course will empower you to play a vital role in suicide prevention. You will gain a general understanding of the problem of suicide in the U.S., understand how to identify a Veteran who may be at risk for suicide, and what to do if you identify a Veteran at risk.

Treatment Works for Vets. This website introduces Veterans to proven treatments for conditions, such as depression, substance abuse, and insomnia that increase suicide risk. There are also resources to help locate trained providers.

Give an Hour. This website provides free mental health resources for Veterans, service members, and families.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 2/1/2019
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