Preventing Veteran Suicides
By Debbie Gregory.
The VA estimates that 22 Veterans take their own lives each day. The DOD, the VA and many other government and private organizations have put suicide awareness and prevention at the top of their priority lists.
The truth is that most suicides are preventable. The suicidal person will usually show signs or “red flag” behaviors prior to taking his/her life. But often, the suicidal person’s family members are confused about or afraid to act on these behaviors. These poor family members are often uninformed or in disbelief. But just like knowing basic first aid or CPR, family members need to be informed on how to handle suicidal behaviors in order to save their loved one’s life.
Prior to committing suicide, most suicidal people exhibit one or more of the following behaviors: Increased substance abuse; reckless behavior; saying that they feel hopeless or worthless; preoccupation with death or dying; changes in eating and/or sleeping habits (eating or sleeping all the time, or not at all); loss of interest in everything, including people; putting their affairs in order by making a will, giving away their most cherished positions, or emptying their living space; and finally, talking about suicide.
Spouses, parents, children and friends of anyone who exhibits one or more of these behaviors need to realize that they are not alone, and not the first person/family to experience difficulty facing this situation. The first thing that people need to do when observing these warning behaviors is admit that there is serious concern for the person’s life. The suicidal person’s safety needs to take priority over hurt feelings or invasion of privacy.
First and foremost, family members need to know that dialing 911 is their best option. But there are many additional resources that can and should be utilized in order to save a suicidal Veteran’s life prior to the point where 911 becomes necessary. When the warning signs are observed, Veterans or concerned family members should utilize one or all of the following resources:
The Veterans Crisis Line. Online or by calling, 1-800-273-8255 or by texting 838255, The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline.
The Soldiers Project and Give an Hour are non-profit organizations that provide free mental health services to Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their family members.