Thank you to the Veteran’s Affairs’ Suicide Prevention Outreach Program for guest authoring this blog to help Coast Guard veteran’s, families and friends locate the proper resources to help someone who may be contemplating suicide.
Written by Megan McCarthy, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Deputy Director of Suicide Prevention
Although talking about suicide prevention can seem scary, we all have the power to connect with loved ones and let them know that we are there if they need to talk.
These connections — whether texting an old friend, checking in on a fellow shipmate, or going for a run with a colleague — are simple yet powerful ways to show that you are there.
It can be difficult to broach the topic of mental health, but there are resources available that can help you start conversations with loved ones you’re concerned about. VA offers a fantastic resource called Coaching into Care for people who may be concerned about a loved one, but are having difficulty talking with the Veteran or Service member about their concerns. It is also helpful to keep in mind the following tips when starting a conversation:
- Remain calm
- Listen more than you speak
- Maintain eye contact
- Act with confidence
- Don’t argue
- Use open body language
- Limit questions to casual information gathering
- Use supportive and encouraging comments
- Be as honest and upfront as possible
Be proactive: Learn to recognize the signs of crisis.
It’s important to recognize when emotions reach a crisis point — especially when thoughts of suicide arise. Although many factors can lead to suicide; stress, depression, feeling overwhelmed, and isolation can heighten these feelings until they are impossible to handle alone.
Learn to recognize these warning signs in yourself or someone you care about:
- Hopelessness, feeling like there’s 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 abuse
- Withdrawing from family and friends
While these warning signs raise concern, the following signs require immediate attention:
- Thinking about hurting or killing yourself
- Looking for ways to kill yourself
- Talking about death, dying, or suicide
- Self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse, weapons, etc.
If you or a Veteran or Service member you know is exhibiting any of these signs, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255 to get confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Connect with support.
Before you start a conversation, find out about the suicide prevention and mental health resources that are available. Veterans and their families can contact their local VA Medical Center using this Resource Locator to find counseling, treatment centers, and customized support for any life challenge. If you need immediate support, contact the Coast Guard’s Employee Assistance Line at 1-855-CG SUPRT (1-855-247-8778).
Finally, hear inspiring stories of recovery directly from Veterans who have connected with care at MakeTheConnection.net. Learn from these Veterans and family members who have overcome challenges, including anxiety and hopelessness, physical and emotional wounds, and traumatic loss. Their stories are extremely powerful examples of the path to recovery.