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You Are Your Friend's Biggest Support
The loss of any warrior’s life is a tragedy, whether it’s in combat or in a different type of battle. Although relatively uncommon overall, suicide events occur across all service branches. Every suicide within the military community is ultimately preventable, and even one is too many.
That’s why it’s critical to speak up if you have concerns about the psychological wellbeing of a fellow service member. Use the information below to learn how to recognize when a warrior may be at risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and what to do when you identify a problem.
Warning Signs of Suicide: Identify Those at Risk
You’ve been trained to identify sources of physical danger for yourself and your fellow warriors. You can also identify psychological concerns that may be affecting service members in your unit or larger community by asking yourself some questions about individual’s behavioral health.
Watch retired Army Maj. Ed Pulido share his story of strength and resilience. After being wounded by an IED blast, Pulido returned home from Iraq facing physical and psychological challenges, including thoughts of suicide. After reaching out for care and support, he was able to overcome his psychological health concerns, showing that successful care and positive outcomes are greatly assisted by early intervention.
Is someone you know showing these signs of concern?1
- Previous suicide attempt or behavior that has led to self-injury
- Significant relationship, financial, medical or work-related problems
- Current or pending disciplinary or legal action
- Substance misuse
- Problems with a major life transition (e.g., retirement, discharge, divorce, etc.)
- Loss of a fellow warrior
- Setbacks in military career or personal life
- Severe, prolonged stress that seems unmanageable
- Sense of powerlessness, helplessness or hopelessness
- Behavior that isolates service members from friends and family members
Suicidal thoughts are usually associated with psychological concerns that can be cared for, so proactively seeking support is the best way to ensure resilience and a positive outcome.2 If your fellow service member is showing any of the above signs of concern, don’t hesitate — have the strength to take action.
If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide or experiencing a psychological health crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, Press 1 or visit militarycrisisline.net.
Take Action if You Notice a Problem
It takes courage to deal with psychological concerns in yourself or a fellow warrior. If the situation is urgent, use these resources to get immediate assistance:
- Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 for the Military Crisis Line, or chat live online.
- Talk to a medic, chaplain or commanding officer immediately — they can support you in locating confidential care or support.
ASK your warrior about suicidal thoughts
- Have the courage to ask if your warrior is having thoughts of suicide, but stay calm.
- Ask the question directly: Are you thinking of killing yourself?
- Know the signs for concern listed above.
CARE for your warrior
- Stay calm and safe — do not use force.
- Understand that your friend or loved one may be in pain.
- Remove any objects or tools that pose a danger to your warrior.
- Actively listen for details about what, where and when your warrior may be planning to kill himself or herself. (If your warrior acknowledges his/her plans, it generally suggests that he/she is accepting your help.)
- Be non-judgmental as you listen, which can help produce relief for the warrior.
ESCORT your warrior to get help
- Escort your warrior immediately to his/her chain of command, chaplain or behavioral health professional.
- Call 911 or 800-273-8255 to speak with a trained professional right away.
- Don’t keep your warrior’s suicidal behavior a secret.
- Never leave your warrior alone — stay until he/she receives appropriate help.
- Adopting an attitude that you are going to help your loved one will save his or her life.
Listen to the Real Warriors Campaign podcast, “Lending Support to Fellow Service Members,” to hear how Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall, a combat photographer who deployed multiple times to Iraq, received support from a fellow combat photographer who recognized the symptoms of psychological stress and helped her get the care she needed.
No Warrior Stands Alone
The stakes in the fight against military suicide are the same as the stakes in combat: lives are on the line. That’s why — now more than ever — you must use your strength to step up and take action if someone you know is at risk.
Read more suicide prevention articles from the Real Warriors Campaign:
- You Are Not Alone: Suicide Prevention Tools for Warriors
- Suicide Prevention Resources for Military Families
- Suicide Prevention Training for Line Leaders
Learn more about identifying signs of concern:
Get additional information about preventing suicide:
- From the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO)
- From the Department of Health and Human Services
- From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- From Military OneSource
- From the National Institute of Mental Health
1 "Suicide Prevention: Warning Signs & Risk Factors." (n.d.). [PDF 1.64MB]. U.S. Army Public Health Command.
2 Hudenko, W. "The Relationship between PTSD and Suicide," National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Sept. 4, 2014.
3ACE Suicide Prevention Card (TA-095-0510) Defense Department. Published September 2009.
4 "A Leader's Guide to Suicide Prevention." (2011 December). [PDF 691KB]. U.S. Army Public Health Command.