You Are Not Alone: Suicide Prevention Tools for Warriors
If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, know that you are not alone. Free, confidential resources are instantly available to aid you if you are in crisis. To get help immediately, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1, or chat online now for 24/7 access to trained counselors.
Experiencing a traumatic event is common among service members who deploy to hostile environments around the globe. Everyone reacts to traumatic experiences differently, and some service members may face emotional or psychological challenges such as feelings of anger, isolation, anxiety or guilt following the event or when they return home. These reactions, among others, can be common responses to extraordinary events.
However, for some service members, these feelings may be signs of more serious conditions, including depression, traumatic brain injury or posttraumatic stress disorder. Warriors coping with these concerns may feel like there is no escape from their symptoms, leading them to have thoughts of suicide.1 Fortunately, suicide prevention tools that encourage resilience and recovery are available.
Proof That You Can Heal
Following his second deployment to Iraq, Army Maj. Jeff Hall became increasingly angry, began pushing away his family and contemplated suicide until his commanding officer helped him get the care and support he needed. By seeking care for psychological health concerns, Maj. Hall learned coping skills and was able to regain peak performance. Watch him tell his story of strength and resilience.
How Do I Know if I Am Showing Warning Signs?
Contact a friend, family member, commanding officer, health professional or the Military Crisis Line immediately if you are:2
- Thinking about hurting or killing yourself
- Seeking access to pills, weapons or other means of harming yourself
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
It is also important to seek out professional help if you are experiencing any of these signs of concern:2
- Being unable to sleep or oversleeping
- Withdrawing from friends, family or society
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Acting recklessly or engaging in risky behavior
- Experiencing excessive rage, anger or desire for revenge
- Having feelings of anxiety, agitation or hopelessness
- Reliving past experiences
- Experiencing dramatic changes in mood
- Feeling hopeless
Hear from Capt. Paul Hammer, Director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), about why seeking support for psychological health concerns is critical for service members in the Real Warriors Campaign podcast, “Why it is Important to Seek Needed Care”.
What Tools Can Help Me Cope While I Seek Treatment?
The most important step in combating thoughts of suicide is reaching out for professional support through resources like the Military Crisis Line and the DCoE Outreach Center, which is accessible 24/7 by calling 866-966-1020 or logging on to Real Warriors Live Chat. Professional support is critical to recovering to peak performance, and the following tips can help you on your journey of recovery and resilience:3
- Set manageable schedules for professional and personal goals and commitments
- Consider writing in a journal to express pain, anger, fear or other emotions
- Be social. Get together with peers, commanding officers, family, friends or other members of the community regularly
- Stay physically fit by eating a healthy diet and getting sufficient sleep
- Stay motivated in tough times by keeping your personal and career goals in mind
- Use relaxation techniques to aid in stress management
- Try to stay organized by creating a daily schedule of tasks and activities. Cross out tasks as they’re accomplished so you can have a visual reminder of your achievements
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.
Who Can I Reach Out to for More Information and Support?
Although some warriors may feel like suicide is the only alternative, there is hope. In addition to the highly trained professionals at the Military Crisis Line and DCoE Outreach Center, you can use the following programs and resources to support your return to full emotional and psychological wellbeing:
- Army Suicide Prevention
- Marine Corps Community Services Suicide Prevention
- Navy Personnel Command Suicide Prevention
- Air Force Suicide Prevention Program
- DoD/VA Suicide Outreach
- Members of each armed service — as well as National Guard members, reservists, veterans and eligible immediate family members — can call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for guidance on finding resources for their service or component, and can find additional psychological support with the Mental Health Services Locator.
Reaching Out Is a Sign of Strength
If you’re having thoughts about suicide, don’t hesitate even for a minute to seek out the care that can help you return to peak performance. Successful care and positive outcome are greatly assisted by early intervention so use the free, confidential resources outlined in this article to help you cope and heal.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- American Association of Suicidology
- DSTRESS Line
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
- Suicide Prevention
- Wingman Project
1 Hudenko, W. “PTSD and Suicide Fact Sheet,” National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Sept. 12 2012.
2 “Risk and Protective Factors," [PDF 482.84KB] Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Published September 2011.
3 “Coping and Support," The Mayo Clinic. Last accessed Sept. 12 2012.