If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, know that you are not alone.
Experiencing a traumatic event is common among service members who deploy to hostile environments around the globe. Everyone reacts to traumatic experiences differently, and some service members may face emotional or psychological challenges such as feelings of anger, isolation, anxiety or guilt following the event or when they return home. These reactions, among others, can be common responses to extraordinary events.
However, for some service members, these feelings may be signs of more serious conditions, including depression, traumatic brain injury 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. Fortunately, suicide prevention tools that encourage resilience and recovery are available.
How do I know if I am showing warning signs?
Contact a friend, family member, commanding officer, health professional or the Military Crisis Line immediately if you are:
• 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:
• 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.
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, which is critical to recovering to peak performance.
The following tips can help you on your journey of recovery and resilience:
• Set manageable schedules for professional and personal goals and commitments.
• 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.
• Stay motivated in tough times by keeping your personal and career goals in mind.
• Use relaxation techniques to aid in stress management.
• Try to stay organized by creating a daily schedule of tasks and activities. Cross out tasks as they’re accomplished so you can have a visual reminder of your achievements.
Reaching out is a sign of strength
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You are your friend’s biggest support
The loss of any warrior’s life is a tragedy, whether it’s in combat or in a different type of battle. Although relatively uncommon overall, suicide events occur across all service branches. Every suicide within the military community is ultimately preventable, and even one is too many. That’s why it’s critical to speak up if you have concerns about the psychological well-being of a fellow service member. Use the information below to learn how to recognize when a warrior may be at risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and what to do when you identify a problem.
Warning signs of suicide: identify those at risk
You’ve been trained to identify sources of physical danger for yourself and your fellow warriors. You can also identify psychological concerns that may be affecting service members in your unit or larger community by asking yourself some questions about individual’s behavioral health.
Is someone you know showing these signs of concern?
• Previous suicide attempt or behavior that has led to self-injury;
• Significant relationship, financial, medical or work-related problems;
• Current or pending disciplinary or legal action;
• Substance misuse;
• Problems with a major life transition (retirement, discharge, divorce, etc.);
• Loss of a fellow warrior;
• Setbacks in military career or personal life;
• Severe, prolonged stress that seems unmanageable;
• Sense of powerlessness, helplessness or hopelessness;
• Behavior that isolates service members from friends and family members.
Suicidal thoughts are usually associated with psychological concerns that can be cared for, so proactively seeking support is the best way to ensure resilience and a positive outcome.
If your fellow service member is showing any of the above signs of concern, don’t hesitate — have the strength to take action.
Take action if you notice a problem
It takes courage to deal with psychological concerns in yourself or a fellow warrior. If the situation is urgent, use these resources to get immediate assistance:
• Call 00800-1273-8255 or DSN 118 for the European Military Crisis Line.
• Talk to a medic, chaplain or commanding officer immediately — they can support you in locating confidential care or support.