Are you a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one?
Find resources to build networks of support among you and your loved ones, community-based organizations, Veterans Service Organizations, health care providers, and other members of your community that can strengthen protective factors for Veterans. Also, find information on lethal means and learn more about our National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide.
VA S.A.V.E. Training
VA S.A.V.E. Training will help you act with care and compassion if you encounter a Veteran who is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts. The acronym S.A.V.E. helps you remember the important steps involved in suicide prevention.
There are behaviors that may be signs a Veteran needs support. Learn to recognize these warning signs:
- Hopelessness, feeling like there is no way out
- Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness or mood swings
- Feeling like there is no reason to live
- Rage or anger
- Engaging in risky activities without thinking
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawing from family and friends
The presence of the following signs in a Veteran requires immediate attention:
- When asked, they express a desire to hurt or kill themselves
- When prompted, they reveal that they are looking for ways to kill themselves
- They talk about death, dying, or suicide
- They begin to exhibit self-destructive behavior, such as increased drug or alcohol use, talking about acquiring/using weapons for self-harm, and stockpiling medication
There are behaviors that may be signs a Veteran needs support. Know how to ask the most important question of all:
"Are you thinking of killing yourself?"
Other ways to ask the question include:
"Are you thinking of suicide?"
"Have you had thoughts about taking your own life?"
When asking the question, remember:
- DO ask the question if you've identified warning signs or symptoms
- DO ask the question in such a way that is natural and flows with the conversation
- DO NOT ask the question as though you are looking for a "no" answer ("You're not thinking of killing yourself, are you?")
- DO NOT wait to ask the question until he or she is halfway out the door
As you listen to the Veteran, ask him or her do the talking and use supportive, encouraging comments. Use the following steps to let the Veteran know that you are listening and acknowledge his or her experience.
- Talk openly about suicide – Be willing to listen and allow the Veteran to express his or her feelings
- Recognize the situation is serious
- Do not pass judgement
- Reassure them that help is available
If a Veteran is having suicidal thoughts, remain calm and reassure them that help is available.
- DO NOT keep the Veteran's suicidal behavior a secret
- DO NOT leave him or her alone
- Try to get the person to seek immediate help from his or her doctor or the nearest hospital or emergency room, OR
- Call 911
You can also call the confidential Veterans Crisis Line at 988 and Press 1.
To learn more about VA S.A.V.E. Training, click here.
No matter what you are experiencing, treatments and resources are available. VA offers treatment options that are proven to be very effective for most people, and many types of professionals at VA can help you reduce risk for suicide.
Evidence-based therapies are among the most effective treatments for suicide-related thoughts and behavior. They can include the following — which are in many cases available at a local VA medical center.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps Veterans with suicide-related thoughts and behavior to understand the relationships among their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and to create new patterns of thinking to support positive feelings.
- Safety Planning Intervention helps Veterans develop and maintain a sense of control when it comes to suicide-related thoughts and behavior. This intervention will help you learn coping strategies and find resources to keep you safe during a suicidal crisis.
- Problem Solving Therapy (PST) helps Veterans recover from difficult situations and learn skills to improve their daily life. This therapy can improve your ability to cope with major life circumstances and stressors and develop a response plan.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) helps Veterans with suicide-related thoughts and behaviors to address stress and strong emotions, learn mindfulness and distress tolerance, and develop and practice new interpersonal skills.
Explore more potential treatment options at VA by visiting the Learn About Treatment page.
Resources to Help Spread the Word
Community Outreach Toolkit is an online guide for hosting or participating in events to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.
Social Media Safety Toolkit includes best practices, resources and sample posts for responding to social media posts that indicate a Veteran is having thoughts of suicide.