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You Are Your Friend’s Biggest Support

battle buddies walking and talking

U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Samantha M. Stryker

Although suicide is a serious public health concern, it is preventable. You can help by keeping an eye out for warriors who may be struggling. Getting them support quickly is important. So, speak up if you are concerned about the psychological wellbeing of a service member or veteran in your life.

The information below can help you learn to recognize when a warrior may be at risk for suicide and what to do when you identify a problem.

Warning Signs and Risk Factors

You’ve been trained to identify sources of physical danger for yourself and your fellow warriors. You can also learn to identify psychological health concerns that may be affecting service members in your unit or community.

Some risk factors that increase the likelihood that a person may consider suicide include:

  • Relationship difficulties
  • Financial challenges
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Loss of a loved one to suicide
  • Sexual assault
  • Trauma experienced prior to military service or unrelated to military duties.
  • Other psychological health concerns.

These risk factors don’t mean someone is considering suicide, but they increase the likelihood. Above all, it’s important to let other service members know you are there for them.

Warning signs for suicide that should be addressed immediately include:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself
  • Planning or preparing for a suicide attempt (for example, buying a gun)
  • Making financial and other arrangements for dependents
  • Social withdrawal
  • Substance abuse

If a fellow service member shows any of the above signs, don’t hesitate to act. Psychological health concerns are treatable and treatment helps. Proactively seeking support is the best way to ensure a positive outcome.

Helping a Warrior With Suicidal Thoughts

Each of the services has guidelines for helping someone at risk for suicide to get care. The guidelines all focus on a similar three-step process that can save a warrior’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 or emergency department. In an emergency, call 911. Stay with them until help arrives.

If you are unsure exactly what to do you can also talk to a health care provider, chaplain or commanding officer. They can help.

In an emergency, the Military Crisis Line can also provide guidance. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, or chat live online.

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. In a non-emergency, you can contact the Psychological Health Resource Center 24/7 to confidentially speak with a trained health resource consultant. Call 866-966-1020 or use 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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