Get Help, Get Better: Veteran Suicide Prevention

Get Help, Get Better: Veteran Suicide Prevention

Over 40,000 people take their lives every year in America. Nowhere is this felt more deeply than for veterans and active duty military. Roughly 20 veterans commit suicide every day. In active duty military, suicide kills more troops in the Middle East than ISIL.

To complicate matters, getting help means navigating the serious stigma around mental illness. Many believe asking for help is a sign of weakness and they should just, “walk it off.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Suicidal thoughts can be devastating, but it’s not your fault. Seeking assistance is one of the healthiest and most courageous decisions you can make for yourself and your family. That’s why we’re highlighting how to deal with suicidal thoughts and urges for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

At the end of this article is a comprehensive list of resources for the Colorado Springs, Dallas, Denver, and Jacksonville areas. If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately.

Jump to a suicide prevention resources section: National Veteran Resources, Colorado Springs, Dallas, Denver, or Jacksonville.

Understanding Suicidal Thoughts

With all the myths surrounding this illness, it’s important to understand the exact causes of suicidal thoughts. Medical News Today defines them as…

Suicidal thoughts, also known as suicidal ideation, are thoughts about how to kill oneself, which can range from a detailed plan to a fleeting consideration and does not include the final act of killing oneself.

Whether a person really feels like they want to die or simply has these thoughts in passing, the situation is serious. When people feel trapped or hopeless, they may believe suicide is the only way out. These thoughts often triggered by an overwhelming situation in life and those in families with a history of suicide are at a higher risk.

Veterans are at even higher risk than civilians due to factors like frequent deployments, deployments to hostile environments, exposure to extreme stress, physical or sexual assault while in the service (which is not limited to women), lengthy deployments, or service related injuries.

However, separating fact from fiction when it comes to this heartbreakingly common ailment can be tricky. That’s why we’ve provided some of the most common myths about veterans, suicide, and what the facts tell us.

Suicide Prevention

Warning Signs

One of the most common misconceptions about suicide is that people who think or attempt it have made up their mind and want to die. In fact, many who attempt or think about suicide will seek help which makes intervention all the more important.

Here are the warning signs from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs that indicate someone is in trouble:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill self
  • Feeling trapped, like there’s no way out
  • Looking for ways to kill self
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Trying to get pills, guns, or other means to harm oneself
  • Withdrawing from friends or family
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Having dramatic changes in mood
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling like there is no reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
  • Experiencing rage, uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
  • Giving away possessions

If you’ve seen any of these patterns in yourself or your loved ones, the time to seek help is now. The National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) also provides a list of signs that may mean an attempt is imminent. This includes:

  • Putting affairs in order and giving away their possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • A sudden mood shift from despair to calm,
  • Evidence of planning and acquiring the means to commit suicide such as a firearm or prescription medication.

So what can you do to help? More than you might think.

Getting Help for Yourself

Recovery is a journey and even veterans can face serious obstacles, but it’s important to remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Help is out there, no matter what your situation. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a special section outlining healthy coping methods for veterans.

Reaching out the first step. If there is an immediate danger, can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) or contact one of our sources below. If you’re seeing warning signs in your own behavior, it’s important to talk to a mental health professional or a support group.

Once the more immediate danger is taken care of, the next step is to build a support group of people you trust. Isolation can exacerbate symptoms that lead to suicide and getting trusted people in your life is imperative. Connect with friends and family, volunteer or take a class, or get involved in your community. The first step could be something as simple as connecting with people and sharing your story on social media.

After you’ve created your support system, remember to use it. Learn how to express yourself even when your instinct may be to shut down. Try to keep an open mind about the advice that is given even if you don’t agree with it. Lastly, show appreciation. While your support group is people you can always count on, it’s important to remember that relationships are a two-way street.

Lastly, prepare for future crises by creating a safety plan. This will outline your coping strategies, signs you may be heading down a dark path, phone numbers of people you can reach out to, provide the numbers to resources like a suicide hotline, and remind you that life is worth living and this too will pass. Having this information ready and available will be doing yourself a great favor.

Helping a Loved One

Confronting a loved is difficult. Though the decision to get help ultimate lies in their hands, there are things you can do to help. These are the guidelines provided by NAMI to assist your loved ones:

  • Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills
  • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, such as “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?” rather than, “Would you rather I call your psychiatrist, your therapist or your case manager?”
  • Talk openly and honestly about suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
  • If there are multiple people, have one person speak at a time
  • Ask what you can do to help
  • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
  • If your loved one asks for something, provide it, as long as the request is safe and reasonable
  • If you are nervous, try not to fidget or pace
  • If your loved one is having hallucinations or delusions, be gentle and sympathetic, but do not get into an argument about whether the delusions or hallucinations are real

Staying Healthy & Staying Safe

No matter who you are or what you’re going through, you are not alone. There are people who will always care about you. Suicide is a tragedy, not only because of the loss of life but because of the devastation to those who are left behind. There is hope. There is always another way.

If you or a loved one exhibits any of the warning signs please check out our resources below. You have value, you matter, and you can get through this. Keeping silent only gives the darkness power. Speak up, speak out, and be there for the people you love. Together, we can try to end the tragic loss of life.

Because 20 veterans a day is 20 too many.

National Suicide Prevention Resources

Name Contact by Phone Contact Online
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or text 838255 Click to speak with someone online.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 800-950-6264 Support for veterans and active duty.
Lifeline Crisis Chat Chat online.
Crisis Text Line Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA.
Wounded Warrior Project 904-296-7350 Register online.
Make the Connection (Speak with veterans.) Visit the website. Resource locator.
National Center for PTSD Resources for PTSD.

Military Health System and the Defense & Defense Health Agency

Information about the care provided by the Military Health System. Ask your question online.

Denver Suicide Prevention Resources

Name Contact by Phone Contact Online
Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado 1-844-493-8255. Text, “TALK” to 28255. Or call the Colorado Crisis line at 1-888-885-1222. Contact the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado here.
Colorado Crisis Services Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255. Online chat for after hours use here.
Mental Health Center of Denver

Email about services here.

Colorado Springs Suicide Prevention Resources

Name Contact by Phone Contact Online
Colorado Crisis Services Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255. Online chat for after hours use here.
Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention 719-573-7447 Email the organization here.
Colorado Springs Counseling Services


Dallas Suicide Prevention Resources

Name Contact by Phone (Crisis Numbers) Contact Online
Suicide & Crisis Center of North Texas 214-828-1000 or text “CONNECT” to 741741. Email for more information about services.
NAMI-Texas 1-800-273-825
Health and Human Services in Texas 2-1-1 or (877) 541-7905 (for resources)
North Texas Behavioral Health Authority (NTBHA)


Jacksonville Suicide Prevention Resources

Name Contact by Phone Contact Online
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 Click to speak with someone online.
Suicide Crisis Marketing Dial 2-1-1 in Northeast Florida and 1-904-632-0600 in the Duval County area
National Association of Mental Illness-Florida 850-671-4445 Contact the office here.
Mental Health Association of Central Florida (407) 898-0110 Referral form for health services.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-Florida Chapter Reach out to the local Florida chapter here.
Florida Department of Children and Families 1-800-273-8255