Suicide Prevention: Coping & Support - Mental Health
Ways to Cope with a Suicide Loss or Attempt
You don’t have to be an expert to help a Veteran. Everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention. We offer a wide range of resources for people to support their Veteran loved ones and we provide guidance on how you can stay safe and healthy while supporting the Veteran you care about.
If you’re seeking answers following an attempted suicide or the loss of a loved one by suicide, the following resources can help you navigate this process. For information to assist with talking to children about suicide and loss, parenting resources can be found on the Family Member or Friend page.
Coping with a Suicide Loss
Sadly, many people know someone who died by suicide. Coping with death is hard. It can be especially hard when a loss is untimely and traumatic.
Resource for Coping With Loss
While grieving, it's normal to experience intense and distressing thoughts and emotions, such as denial, anger, sadness, and loneliness. You may also struggle to understand why that person took their own life or worry that you missed a warning sign.
These thoughts and feelings may be hard to talk about and may last a long time, change over time, and resurface on holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. It's not uncommon to develop certain mental conditions, such as depression and anxiety, that make it even harder to cope.
Remember: People who lose someone to suicide can develop posttraumatic stress disorder. Symptoms include feeling stressed or frightened long after you've experienced a traumatic event. And you may have suicidal thoughts yourself, especially if you feel lonely.
Here are a few resources:
- VA Suicide Prevention Program team members are available to connect you with others who can help in your healing process after a suicide. Find suicide prevention coordinators at VA medical centers across the country: VeteransCrisisLine.net/Get-Help/LocalResources.
- The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) offers compassionate care to all those grieving the loss of a military loved one, including those who lost someone to suicide. You can call TAPS 24/7 at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277) or visit TAPS online at taps.org/suicide.
- The Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) website has information on how to find a therapist in your community who specializes in working with people who have lost someone to suicide: save.org/about-suicide/treatment/find-a-mentalhealth-professional.
- You can also search for local support groups through the SAVE (save.org/find-help/coping-with-loss) 9 clicks and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org/ find-support/ive-lost-someone) websites.
Support After a Suicide Attempt
If someone you love attempted suicide, you may be feeling a range of emotions, such as fear, anger, and confusion. You are not alone. There are steps you can take and resources available to guide you through this journey of hope and healing.
Complete a release of information form to allow you to participate in your loved one's medical or mental health care.
- Meet with the treatment team and develop a plan for the patient to receive follow-up care after discharge.
- Bring a list of all medications taken by the patient when you meet with the treatment team.
Ask about conditions that are being treated and what medications are being prescribed.
- Talk about safe storage strategies or removal of guns and medications from the home.
- If receiving services at a VA location, ask how to connect with the VA suicide prevention coordinator (SPC).
- Request a copy of the patient's safety plan prior to leaving the facility.
- Ensure all follow-up appointments are scheduled prior to discharge and keep your contact information up to date in your loved one's medical record.
- Add the Veterans Crisis Line number (988 and Press 1, text 838255) to your phone and encourage your loved one to do the same.
- Know the warning signs of suicide.
- Keep the safety plan handy and discuss it as often as needed.
- Communicate with your loved one about any swift mood changes and reach out to medical providers with any concerns.
- Explore VA programs, such as Peer Support, Whole Health, Care Management, and VA Chaplains
- Educate yourself on resources available, including: Make the Connection, VA's Caregiver Prevention Toolkit for Caregivers 56 downloads, and the Veterans Crisis Line – Dial 988 and Press 1, text 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/chat.