Suicide is an important concern facing the military community. In recognition of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the Real Warriors Campaign encourages all service members, veterans and their loved ones to learn the warning signs of suicidal ideation and to support loved ones in seeking immediate care.
On Sept. 5, the Defense Department released a suicide report for the first quarter of the 2014 calendar year. From January through March, there were 74 suicides among active-duty service members, 24 among reservists and 22 among National Guardsmen. Providing early support and the right coping tools to warriors experiencing psychological health challenges associated with deployment, transitions and other aspects of military life is key to preventing suicides and other serious psychological health concerns later on.
Real Warriors Campaign profilee, retired Army Maj. Ed Pulido has shared his story of reaching out for help. Wounded by an improvised explosive devise blast in Iraq, Pulido returned home facing tremendous physical and psychological health concerns, including thoughts of suicide.
“After I was wounded, I felt like I was not strong enough and I was not a real warrior,” Pulido says. “When I began to reach out for support, I realized that what I was feeling was common. I began to think that all these things needed to be talked about, and I began my recovery.”
It’s important to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation as well as resources for warriors and their loved ones.
What are the Warning Signs?
You or a loved one may be at risk and need help addressing psychological health concerns if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Thinking about harming yourself
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
- Unable to sleep or oversleeping
- Withdrawing from friends, family or society
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Engaging in reckless or risky behavior
- Experiencing excessive rage, anger or desire for revenge
- Having feelings of anxiety, agitation or hopelessness
- Reliving past stressful experiences
- Experiencing dramatic changes in mood
- Giving away personal or prized possessions
What Can Family Members do if their Service Member is Showing Warning Signs?
Service members should not feel alone, and neither should their families. Sometimes, it can be challenging to know what to do if you think a loved one may be considering suicide. The ACE (Ask, Care, Escort) plan is a helpful resource that can guide you.
1. Ask your warrior about suicidal thoughts
- Ask the question directly: Are you thinking of harming yourself?
- Have the courage to ask if your warrior is having thoughts of suicide, but stay calm.
- Know the warning signs (listed above)
2. Care for your warrior
- Calmly control the situation.
- Understand that your loved one may be in pain.
- Remove any objects or tools that pose a danger to your warrior.
- Actively listen for details about what, where and when your warrior may be planning to harm himself or herself.
- Be non-judgmental as you listen. This can help give your warrior relief.
3. Escort your warrior to get help
- Escort your warrior immediately to his or her chaplain or behavioral health professional.
- Call 911 or the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 to speak with a trained professional right away.
- Don’t keep your warrior’s suicidal behavior a secret.
- Never leave your warrior alone — stay until he/she has received appropriate help.
How Can You Help?
As you help your loved one seek care, there are many actions that can encourage his or her return to a healthier state. Encourage your warrior to:
- Consider writing a journal to express pain, anger, fear or other emotions
- Be social. Get together with peers, commanding officers, family, friends or other members of the community to relieve stress and build connections with others
- Stay physically and mentally fit by eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep
- Stay motivated to fulfill personal and career goals
- Use relaxation techniques to aid in stress management
- Embrace your spirituality and find support through friends, family and chaplains to build and maintain spiritual fitness
For additional resources and tips on suicide prevention and awareness, visit the Real Warriors Campaign online at www.realwarriors.net or the Defense Suicide Prevention Office at www.suicideoutreach.org. If you are experiencing or if you suspect someone may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, seek help immediately by calling the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1 or chat online now. Contact the DCoE Outreach Center to speak with trained health resource consultants for assistance 24/7 by calling 866-966-1020. Read campaign articles such as “You are your Friend’s Biggest Support” and “Suicide Prevention Resources for Military Families.”
SOURCE Real Warriors Campaign