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Suicide Prevention: Coping & Support - Mental Health

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Suicide Prevention

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:

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.

Short-Term Steps

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.

Long-Term Steps

Learn more about the steps you can take after the suicide attempt of a Veteran loved one here. You can also download a pocket card that summarizes those steps here.

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