Twenty. That’s the estimated number of veterans who take their own lives every day in the U.S., according to a major 2016 study on the subject published by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

While that number has thankfully been revised downward from the more often cited 22 per day drawn from a previous study, it remains startling. In fact, while veterans make up less than 9 percent of the U.S. population, they account for approximately 18 percent of all suicides, according to the recent figures.

Among current Guard and Reserve and active duty Service members, the numbers have also been troubling. The Defense Suicide Prevention Office publishes frequent reports on suicide rates, including the Reserve Component. With little exception, most years show more than 200 Guard and Reserve suicides annually, with closer to 300 for the Active Component.

In the years since 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the growing understanding of these startling realities about suicide rates among Service members have led to the creation of numerous prevention and awareness programs and campaigns. The Defense Department has named September Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month to focus attention on preventing even one suicide from occurring. We’ve gathered some of the foremost resources in suicide prevention for you to contact for information or help, or share with someone you think may be in need of attention.

Veterans Crisis Line / #BeThere Campaign

vet-mil-crisis-lineA joint resource of the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line offer, at their core, free, confidential support via phone, text, and online chat. On their website, Service members can also find local treatment centers and other resources, hundreds of videos of Service members and families discussing how they overcame their own challenges, resources for homeless veterans, and more. For family and friends, the site offers numerous ideas—small and large—for showing Service members you’ve got their backs.

This is all part of their #BeThere campaign, which aims to show how a simple act of kindness can help someone feel less alone.

MilitaryOneSource

What to do in an Emergency

Call 911 or seek immediate help from an emergency room or mental health care provider if the Service member:

  • Talks or writes about suicide, death or ways to die
  • Threatens to hurt or kill him or herself
  • Tries to get pills, guns or other means of ending his or her own life

from MilitaryOneSource

MilitaryOneSource hosts a wealth of information on suicide awareness and prevention, as well as mental health issues more generally. This is a great place to find information on signs someone may be at risk for suicide, tools for helping family members cope with a suicide, and much more.

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury also offers numerous resources on combating military suicides. Here you’ll find brochures, fact sheets, links to other resources for both Service members and families, as well as links to information specific to your service. 

DCOE

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury also offers numerous resources on combating military suicides. Here you’ll find brochures, fact sheets, links to other resources for both Service members and families, as well as links to information specific to your service.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Service members and veterans can also avail themselves of suicide prevention resources targeting the civilian population. There are many, but the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, is among the most well-known.

Defense Suicide Prevention Office

The DSPO was established in 2011 to combat the rising tide of suicides among Service members. The department makes policy, assesses the efficacy of ongoing programs, and partners with numerous suicide prevention efforts. It is also the authoritative source for suicide data in the DoD, publishing quarterly and annual reports on suicide rates in the military.

Note: The featured image above depicts two New Jersey National Guardsmen, Pfc. Luselys Lugardo (left) and Sgt. Alberto Rodriguez (right), posing in front of a shattered mirror to portray the way suicide hurts families, friends, and coworkers. (U.S. Air National Guard photos by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)

­­­­­­­Know the Signs

Everyone can help prevent suicide. Know how to recognize warning signs that signal an increase in the chance that a person may engage in suicidal behavior in the near future. The most dangerous warning signs are the presence of suicidal thoughts and actions. These are signs that a person needs help immediately! Other warning signs that might indicate a cause for concern include:

  • Increase in substance use (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes)
  • Feeling hopeless, like there is nothing you can do to improve your situation
  • Feeling no sense of purpose, no reason for living
  • Anger, rage, seeking revenge
  • Reckless or risky behavior
  • Feeling trapped or stuck in a bad situation, with no way out
  • Staying away from family and friends
  • Feeling anxious or irritable
  • Sudden changes in mood, no interest in things you usually like to do
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Guilt or shame 

from DCOE