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Suicide Prevention Awareness: It’s Not Only About Deployments and Combat

Spc. Kevin Floyd, a 212th Combat Support Hospital healthcare specialist, 30th Medical Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command and a native of Rome, Ga., hugs his wife and children at a Welcome Home Ceremony April 6

Photo by Capt. Amanda Kehrrington

Believing that suicide is only related to deployments and combat may cause service members who are having difficulties, but haven’t deployed, to feel that they don’t deserve to struggle. This may stop them from seeking help. It may also cause people around a struggling service member who hasn’t deployed to overlook warning signs. Additionally, military family members who are struggling with thoughts of suicide may also be overlooked.

The reality is that, apart from deployment and combat experiences, there are many other difficulties that can be risk factors for suicide. These include:

  • Psychological health concerns, especially those that are undiagnosed or untreated
  • Trauma experienced prior to military service or unrelated to military duties
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Financial challenges
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Loss of a loved one to suicide
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Military sexual trauma

Family Suicide Awareness

Military family members may also be affected by misconceptions about suicide. Like service members, they face many of the same stresses of military life. As a result, they are also at risk for suicide. Some family members, like teenagers, may be at greater risk for suicide than civilian family members.

Furthermore, if a loved one in uniform dies by suicide, military families may face stigma that can feel isolating. A suicide death can seem unexpected and may be accompanied by feelings of guilt or shame. This can make it particularly difficult for a military family to cope with a suicide.

If family members are experiencing any concerns following the loss of a loved one, they should talk to a health care provider. Surviving family members may be at increased risk for concerns like anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression or even suicide themselves.

Warning Signs for Suicide

The first step to preventing suicide is to recognize warning signs that may show that a person is in danger. These include:

  • Threatening suicide
  • Seeking access to dangerous items, like weapons or pills
  • Talking or writing about death or suicide
  • Acting recklessly
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Showing dramatic changes in mood

Getting Help

Three simple steps can help save someone’s life:

  1. Ask. If you notice someone is struggling, check how they are feeling. Ask if they are considering suicide.
  2. Listen. Hear their concerns. Assure them they aren’t alone.
  3. Get help. If they are considering suicide take them to a medical facility. In an emergency, call 911. Stay with them until help arrives.

If you are or someone you know is feeling distressed as the result of military service or other life stressors, know that reaching out is a sign of strength. Contact the Psychological Health Resource Center to confidentially speak with a trained health resource consultant 24/7 by calling 866-966-1020 or using the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also visit our “Seek Help, Find Care” page for a list of psychological health resources.

Additional Resources

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