Suicide prevention resources for military families

No warrior or military family is alone. If you are concerned that a service member or veteran in your family is considering harming or killing him/herself, free resources are immediately available to aid your family in its time of crisis.

To get help for someone immediately, call the Veterans Crisis Line at civ. 001-800-273-TALK and press 1. You can also use the information below to educate yourself about how to tell if a loved one may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, and what you can do to help him or her find the strength to reach out for help.

Identify the warning signs
Experiencing a traumatic event is common among service members who deploy to hostile environments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe. Everyone reacts to traumatic experiences differently, and while many service members experience no negative effects, others may feel angry or isolated when they return home. These reactions can be common responses to extraordinary events.

However, for some service members, these feelings may be signs of more serious conditions, including depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Warriors coping with these concerns may feel like there is no escape from their symptoms, leading them to have thoughts of suicide or engage in high risk behavior.

The following behaviors and feelings can all be signs for concern. It is important to seek professional guidance right away if your loved one is:
• thinking about hurting or killing him/herself;

• seeking access to pills, weapons or other means of harming/killing him/herself;

• talking or writing excessively about death, dying or suicide;

• unable to sleep or sleeping all the time;

• withdrawing from friends, family or society;

• significantly increasing alcohol or drug use;

• engaging in risky behavior, such as driving recklessly;

• experiencing excessive rage, anger or desire for revenge;

• having feelings of anxiety, agitation or hopelessness;

• repeatedly reliving past stressful experiences;

• experiencing dramatic changes in mood;

• feeling there is no reason for living, or

• feeling trapped, like there is no way out.

How to help your loved one
It can be difficult to know what to do if you think someone may be considering suicide. But you can use the ACE framework to guide your actions:

• “Ask” your warrior if he or she is having thoughts of suicide, but stay calm. Ask the question directly: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” Know the signs for concern listed above.

• “Care” for your warrior. Stay calm and safe — do not use force. Understand that your loved one may be in pain. Remove any lethal means, such as weapons or pills.
Actively listen for details about what, where and when your warrior may be planning to kill himself or herself. (If your warrior acknowledges his/her plans, it generally suggests that he/she is accepting your help.) Actively listening without passing judgment can help produce relief for the warrior.

• “Escort” your warrior to get help. Escort your warrior immediately to his/her chain of command, chaplain or behavioral health professional. 
If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, call the USAG Stuttgart Military Police at DSN 114 or 430-5262/civ. 0711-680-114/5262.
Don’t keep your warrior’s suicidal behavior a secret.  Adopting an attitude that you are going to help your loved one will save his or her life. Never leave your warrior alone — stay until he/she receives appropriate help. 

All military families can speak to a trained professional 24/7 for free by contacting:
• the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (visit Veterans Live Chat or call stateside 800-273-TALK to talk with a crisis counselor).
In USAG Stuttgart, call:

• a marriage and family counselor through social work services at 431-2676/civ. 07031-15-2676;

• the USAG Stuttgart Family Life Chaplain at 420-6124/civ. 0711-819-6124, or

• a Military and Family Life Consultant (through Army Community Services) at civ. 0170-708-0715 or 0160-9574-8279. U.S. Africa Command service members can call civ. 0160-9574-8279.

What you can do to support your warrior
As you help your loved one seek care, encourage your warrior to:
• cut back on obligations when possible and set reasonable schedules for goals;

• consider writing in a journal to express pain, anger, fear or other emotions;

• avoid isolation — get together with buddies, commanding officers, family, friends or other members of the community regularly;

• stay physically fit by eating a healthy diet and getting sufficient sleep;

• stay motivated in tough times by keeping personal and career goals in mind;

• use relaxation techniques to aid in stress management; and

• stay organized by creating a daily schedule of tasks and activities.
The stakes in the fight against military suicide are the same as the stakes in combat: lives are on the line. That’s why our nation’s warriors can benefit greatly from the support of their families when they step up to seek treatment.

Source: Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury