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Suicide Prevention: Prevention - Mental Health

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Suicide Prevention

Are you a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one?

To connect with a Veterans Crisis Line responder anytime day or night:


When Veterans have access to the right support before a crisis happens, lives can be saved.

One of the keys to prevention is strengthening protective factors—like access to mental health care, feeling connected to other people, and positive coping skills — for Veterans and reducing risk factors, like easy access to firearms or certain medications, and stressful life events, such as divorce, job loss, or the death of a loved one.

VA is dedicated to reducing Veteran suicide rates, but we can’t do it alone. Because roughly half of all Veterans in the United States don’t receive services or benefits from VA, we collaborate with partners and communities nationwide to reach Veterans where they are.

Veterans’ friends and family members are also crucial to prevention. They know their Veteran loved ones best and are often the first to notice the Veteran is facing a challenge.

Whether you’re a Veteran, friend or family member, or caregiver, VA offers support no matter what you’re experiencing.

Practice Secure Firearm and Medication Storage

While firearms and medications are usually handled responsibly, they can become deadly if a Veteran is in crisis or having thoughts of suicide. Because many suicidal crises are brief, safe storage practices can save a life by increasing the amount of time and distance between someone having a suicidal crisis and access to a firearm or medication. Visit KeepItSecure for more tips on how to keep Veterans and their families safe.

Keep Veterans Safe on Social Media

More and more Veterans are using social media as a major communications tool. The conversations that used to happen in person or over the phone are now taking place through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you use these or other platforms, it’s vital to know what to do if you spot content that makes you concerned for a Veteran.

Learn how to keep veterans safe on social media.

Learn the Steps Involved in Suicide Prevention

VA S.A.V.E. Training Brochure provides information that will help you act with care and compassion if you come across a Veteran who is in crisis or having thoughts of suicide. The acronym S.A.V.E. helps you remember the important steps involved in suicide prevention:

S Signs of suicidal thinking should be recognized

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

V Validate the Veteran's experience

E Encourage treatment and expedite getting help

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. Dial 988 then Press 1.

If you're interested in VA S.A.V.E. Training, these suicide prevention courses may be useful:

Seek Solutions to Common Challenges Faced by Veterans

Life has its challenges. As a Veteran you don't have to solve them alone. Find support and resources designed specifically for you, including those for financial, career, educational, and more.

Build Networks of Support That Strengthen Protective Factors

  • The Veteran Training self-help portal provides tools to help Veterans work on problem-solving, manage their anger, develop parenting skills, and more. The free tools are based on mental health practices that have proven successful with Veterans and their families.
  • Free VA mobile apps equip you with tools and information to assist in managing symptoms and stress, learning to practice mindfulness, and strengthening relationship skills.

Access Evidence-Based Treatments

Evidence-based therapies are among the most effective treatments for suicide-related thoughts and behavior and many are 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, learn skills to improve their daily life, and cope with challenging life circumstances and chronic stressors. PST is a goal-oriented treatment that can teach Veterans to identify, understand and evaluate their challenges, then implement solutions to manage them.
  • 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.

Find State and Local Community Support

Veteran Community Partnerships connect local VA facilities with state and local community services and agencies to enhance and improve access to care, services, and benefits; educate community agencies and VA providers; and support caregivers and families.

Suicide prevention-specific partnerships include the Governor’s and Mayor’s Challenge, grants—including the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program and Mission Daybreak―and community outreach.

Video PSA: I’m Glad You Called

When emotional issues reach a crisis point, Veterans Crisis Line responders are ready to listen and help 24/7. Dial 988 then Press 1, chat at, or text 838255.

Newsletter Sign Up

Receive monthly emails about the latest mental health and suicide prevention resources and research from VA.

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