Service members may face emotional or psychological concerns following deployment and from the stress of military life. For some, these feelings can lead to thoughts of hurting or killing one’s self. Warriors may be left believing there is no escape from how they’re feeling. Know that you are not alone. Help is available and it works. For example, a 2015 study found that treatment can prevent future suicide attempts among service members with current suicidal ideation or a recent suicide attempt.
Recognize Your Distress
Sometimes thoughts of suicide occur when a person feels overwhelmed by stress and emotions. They can also occur when a person has a psychological health concern. Feelings of isolation, avoiding others, and misusing alcohol or other substances can make suicidal thoughts worse. [PDF 211KB]
Suicidal thoughts can vary from person to person and how a person feels at any given time. They can be passive like, “I wish I were dead” or active like, “I should kill myself now.” In some cases, the suicidal thought is present for just a second or two. Others may have thoughts that they can’t get to leave their mind. These thoughts may be uncomfortable. If you feel like you’re distressed with thoughts of suicide, reach out for help to get you back to yourself again.
If you are in crisis, seek care now. The most important step if you are feeling suicidal or unsafe with yourself is to reach out for help from a trained health care provider. You can also contact the Military Crisis Line 24/7 at 800-273-8255 to speak confidentially with a trained counselor.
In addition, talk with your provider about the following techniques that can help during your recovery.
- Confide in someone you trust. Speak with a family member, fellow warrior, unit leader or military chaplain. Talking about what is bothering you is a great first step to receive support, get other perspectives and reduce distress.
- Make your environment safe. Give any guns or other dangerous items to a trusted person if you feel unsafe with yourself.
- Avoid alcohol and other substances. Substance misuse may feel like it helps your stress level, but can actually make your thoughts worse.
- Take care of your mind and body. Healthy ways to manage stress include physical activities like walking and running, other pleasant activities and hobbies, and different forms of relaxation such as deep breathing and mindfulness meditation.
- Write it out. Consider using a journal to express pain, anger, fear or other emotions.
Reach Out for Support
In addition to the Military Crisis Line, you can access suicide prevention resources through the Defense Suicide Prevention Office and the Psychological Health Center of Excellence. Remember, reaching out is a sign of strength. If you or a loved one needs additional support, you can contact the Psychological Health Resource Center to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants 24/7, call 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also visit our “Seek Help, Find Care” page to see a list of key psychological health resources.
Service Specific Resources:
- Rudd, M., Bryan, C., Wertenberger, E., Peterson, A., Young-McCaughan, S., Mintz, J., … Bruce, T. (2015, May 1). Brief cognitive-behavioral therapy effects on post-treatment suicide attempts in a military sample: Results of a randomized clinical trial with 2-year follow-up.The American Journal of Psychiatry, 172(5), 441-449.
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center, & Rodgers, P."Understanding risk and protective factors for suicide: A primer for preventing suicide [PDF 211KB].” (2011). Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
- "Risk factors.”(n.d.). Defense Suicide Prevention Office.
- "Coping and support.”(2016, July 7). The Mayo Clinic.