Each year, Hope For The Warriors® staff members attend Suicide Prevention Training with a representative from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The training is invaluable for the daily mission of an organization that works with wounded service members, their families, and families of the fallen.

The training is only one hour–not nearly long enough to cover all topics.  But the training helps the Hope For The Warriors® staff identify those who are at risk and gives us the language and tools needed to approach veterans and family members about this serious subject.  This blog posting only scratches the surface.  Please find more information at their site.  

It is imperative that we all have a better understanding of suicide prevention and crisis management.  Here are a few of the important statistics:

More than 36K U.S. deaths from suicide each year
20% of those that die from suicide are veterans
33% of veterans who die from suicide had previously attempted suicide
950 suicide attempts/month by veterans receiving VA healthcare services

Operation S.A.V.E.

S-Know the Signs
Learn the warning signs of someone who is considering suicide.  Some of the signs include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness
  • Rage or Anger
  • Engaging in risky activities
  • Increase in alcohol or drug abuse
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Talking about death, dying or suicide

A-Asking the Question
Although it might be difficult, if you believe that someone exhibits the warning signs, you need to calmly ask, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”  It is important to be direct, calm, and nonjudgmental.  The goal is for the person to feel comfortable speaking with you.

Notice that you do not ask if they are thinking of hurting themselves or ask indirectly.  The more direct and calm you ask the question, the more likely they will be to answer honestly.

V-Validate their Experience
Be willing to listen and recognize their struggles. 

E-Encourage Treatment and Expedite Getting Help
Try to get the person immediate help.  If you are concerned for their safety, do not leave them.  Stay with them until they have gotten help.

Veterans Crisis Line
Learn the number, share with veterans and military families.  The Veterans Crisis Line number is 800.273.8255 (Press 1).  Or TEXT 838255.  This is open to all veterans and their families.  Anyone can call if they are concerned if a service member or veteran is considering suicide.  

Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 814,000 calls and has made more than 28,000 life saving rescues.

Besides information, the Veterans Crisis Line site provides materials for educating.  If you work with the veteran population, please visit the site and download the tools provided.

Our expert stressed one point especially–the VA cannot do this work alone.  It requires all of us to learn the signs and identify those that are at risk.