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You Are Your Friend's Biggest Support

large group of Army soldiers marching

Photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Mark Fayloga

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.

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.

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.

In addition to seeking out these resources for a fellow warrior, you can also use the ACE guidelines below to address your concerns effectively:3,4

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.

No Warrior Stands Alone

Each military service offers suicide prevention resources — including proactive suicide prevention programs instituted by the Army, Air Force and Navy & Marine Corps.

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.

Additional Resources

Read more suicide prevention articles from the Real Warriors Campaign:

Learn more about identifying signs of concern:

Get additional information about preventing suicide:

Sources

1Leader’s Guide for Managing Marines in Distress,” Marine Corps. Last accessed Aug. 21, 2014.
2If You Are Considering Suicide” American Association of Suicidology. Last accessed Sep. 26, 2013.
3ACE Suicide Prevention Card. (TA-095-0510) Defense Department. Published September 2009.
4ACE Suicide Prevention Program: Trainer’s Manual [PDF 1.81MB]. U.S. Army Public Health Command. Published Jan. 28, 2008.

Last Reviewed: 08/21/14
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