Preventing Suicides in the Military

Although suicides in the military weigh heavily on the shoulders of leaders and the military community, the U.S. Government and military officials have taken long strides to understand suicides and to work to prevent them. The stress of deployment, combat and other factors related to the military are often some of the causes of depression and military suicide.

Suicide rates have risen drastically in the past few years and officials have made it a priority to help soldiers assimilate back into normal society after serving their time with the military. Healing and prevention have become major focuses of post-service life, for soldiers, families and military leaders. Maintaining efforts to reach out to soldiers and their families is crucial, especially as many soldiers are unable to admit they feel depressed *or* simply don’t understand the problem.

According to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, “Suicide is a tragedy that all leaders must address.” Mullen has driven greater focus toward better understanding and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other behavioral health issues associated with military combat and deployment.

The military has utilized the technology available for instant communication as a means to helping service members cope with the stress of deployment. Using Skype, Sight Speed and other online communication programs, soldiers can talk with behavioral health specialists and discuss their feelings, emotions and the issues they are encountering. Military leaders hope that utilizing this route will help ease stress and increase healing. This is just one step being taken to help diminish the larger issue of military suicides.

Healing and prevention are not solely reliant on soldiers *or* behavioral health specialists, though. Family plays a large role in identifying and treating emotional issues. There are a few warning signs that can be noticed when a person feels depressed *or* suicidal.

He *or* she:

  • Cannot think clearly.
  • Cannot sleep, eat *or* work appropriately.
  • Cannot stop the pain.
  • Cannot make decisions.
  • Cannot make the sadness go away.
  • Cannot see any way out of the depression.
  • Cannot see a future without pain.
  • Cannot get anyone’s attention to address the issue.
  • Cannot seem to get *or* maintain control of himself, *or* his emotions.

If you notice any of these symptoms from anyone close to you, there are some tips you can use to help support the person and steer he *or* she away from suicidal thoughts:

  • Be open, direct and honest with the person. Talk with a “matter-of-fact” manner.
  • Be non-judgmental. Avoid talking about the “right *or* wrong” of feelings, emotions *or* suicide itself. Steer away from lecturing about life.
  • Be a great listener. Show compassion and acceptance of the person’s feelings.
  • Offer your interest, support and availability.
  • Refrain from “daring” the person to actually do it.
  • Don’t react negatively *or* shocked.
  • Encourage seeking help and support and do so yourself. Don’t promise secrecy.
  • Seek advice *or* help from professional suicide prevention *or* crisis intervention agencies.
  • Don’t remain inactive. Collect any potentially harmful elements, including guns, large collections of pills.
  • Stay positive, but avoid insincere reassurance.

The Veteran’s Affairs Department has founded a national suicide prevention hotline to help ease the weight of depression and suicidal emotions in service members and veterans. A program from the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA), the hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and service members can talk with trained professional counselors. To access the hotline, call 1-800-273-8255 and press “1”.

For more information on treating combat-related depression, mental health articles, PTSD articles *or* information on military family and spouse support, visit If you are a civilian mental health professional, the Army is seeking to employ nationwide overseas help to make a difference in suicide prevention. Please check out Army Civilian Mental Health openings and the outstanding benefits offered in their ad in the Virtual Job Fair by clicking here.