If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, know that you are not alone. Suicide is a medical emergency and care should be sought immediately by calling 911. Free, confidential resources are instantly available through the Military Crisis Lineto aid you if you are in crisis. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, or chat online now for 24/7 access to trained counselors who understand what service members and military families are coping with.
Some service members may face emotional or psychological concerns such asfeelings of anger, isolation, anxiety or guilt following a deployment or as a result of coping with the stress of military life. These reactions, among others, can be common responses to extraordinary events. For some service members, these feelings may be signs of more serious concerns, including depression or posttraumatic stress disorder. Warriors coping with these concerns may feel like there is no escape from their symptoms, which may lead to thoughts of suicide.1 However, warriors should be assured that tools that encourage resilience and recovery are available and they work.
Proof That You Can Heal
Wounded by an IED blast in Iraq, Maj. Pulido returned home facing tremendous physical and psychological challenges, including thoughts of suicide. By seeking care for psychological health concerns, Maj. Pulido 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?
- 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
It’s critical to speak up if you have concerns about the psychological health of a fellow service member. Read the Real Warriors Campaign articles, “You Are Your Friend’s Biggest Support,” to learn more about when a warrior may be at risk for suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and what to do when you identify a potential concern.
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. Professional support is critical to recovering to peak performance. In addition, the following tips can help you on your journey of recovery and resilience:3
- 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
- Use relaxation techniques to aid in stress management
Suicide prevention in the military is the responsibility of all leaders. Front-line leaders at all levels must take measures to create a command climate that encourages service members to seek the help they need. To learn more, read the Real Warriors Campaign article, “Suicide Prevention Training for Line Leaders,” and download the DCoE fact sheet, “Suicide: What Unit Leaders Need to Know” [PDF 1.74MB].
Who Can I Reach Out to for More Information and Support?
In addition to trained professionals at the Military Crisis Line, you can access suicide prevention resources and links through the Defense Suicide Prevention Office suicide outreach page and the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE)’s suicide prevention page. You can also access suicide prevention resources within the services:
Reaching Out Is a Sign of Strength
America’s service members and veterans are strong. Sometimes reaching out for help can be the most challenging and worthwhile mission of all. If you are experiencing or if you suspect someone may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, seek help immediately by calling the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1 or chat online now.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- American Association of Suicidology
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- DCoE 24/7 Outreach Center
- DSTRESS Line
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
- VA ACE Card and brochure [PDF 1.4MB]
- Vet Centers
- Wingman Project
1 Hudenko, W. “PTSD and Suicide Fact Sheet,” National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Oct. 18, 2013.
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 Oct. 18, 2013.