Suicide Prevention - Mental Health
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Mental Health

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Suicide Prevention

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Suicide Prevention

Are you a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one?

Find support anytime day or night

If these symptoms lead to thoughts of death or suicide, it’s important you talk to someone right away. The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Prevention

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.

Signs of suicidal thinking should be recognized

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
Ask the most important question of all – Are you thinking of killing yourself?

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
Validate the Veteran's experience

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
Encourage treatment and expedite getting help

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 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1.

To learn more about VA S.A.V.E. Training, click here.

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.

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