Suicide Prevention Month: Be There
Suicide Prevention Month is an opportunity to increase public awareness about the risk factors and warning signs for suicide, provide information about VA mental health and suicide prevention resources, and help individuals and organizations start the conversation around mental health in their communities.
- This September, VA will promote the Be There campaign, expanding on previous successful campaigns to let people know that suicide prevention can start with one simple act of support. Starting the conversation may be challenging, but reaching out to a Veteran loved one who’s facing a tough time can make all the difference.
- VA will collaborate with community groups, VSOs, health care providers, corporations, educational institutions, government agencies, public figures, and others to educate and empower Veterans, Service members, and their supporters to take action to help prevent suicide.
- As part of your community, you are in a position to help a Veteran who may be at risk for suicide. You don’t need special training to safely talk about suicide risk or show concern for someone who’s in distress.
Start the Conversation
Don’t be afraid to start the conversation around mental health and suicide, even if it’s out of your comfort zone.
- Sometimes, just letting a Veteran know that you’re there for them can help someone facing mental health challenges to feel less alone and pave the way for a constructive conversation. Learn about ways you can show support and find information about local resources at VeteransCrisisLine.net/BeThere.
- Conversations around mental health are an integral part of preventing suicide. Opening the door to constructive, respectful conversations can encourage Veterans to share their story and help them feel less alone, reinforcing the connectedness that is a protective factor for suicide risk. Here are some tips on approaching the conversation:
- Understand that conversations around mental health and suicide may be uncomfortable, but the toughest conversations can have the most impact.
- Build conversations around mental health on a foundation of respect. Eye contact, positive body language, and other listening cues can set the stage for a constructive conversation and let the Veteran know that you care.
- Validate the Veteran’s experience, understanding that they may have encountered situations that are difficult to explain or relay to someone who wasn’t in their shoes. You can validate a Veteran’s experience even if you can’t relate to it.
- Broaching the subject of suicide can be challenging, but it is important to start the conversation. Keep in mind that talking about suicide does not increase suicide risk.
One Text Away
Reaching out to a Veteran can start with a simple text message.
- With today’s digitally connected culture, it’s easier now than ever before to get in touch with the Veteran in your life.
- One text message or chat can help show a Veteran that you care and are ready to listen. Sometimes, reaching out digitally can help maintain some distance to start, giving the Veteran time to process a message and decide how to respond.
- Messages of support may include the following:
- “Just wanted to let you know that I’m here if you ever need someone to listen.”
- “Thinking of you today. Hope all is well!”
- “Hey man, I missed you at Chuck’s going away party. We should catch up sometime soon!”
- “Hey Amy, would you want to grab coffee? Would love to see you.”
Know the Signs
A major part of preventing suicide is being able to identify and address warning signs.
They can include:
- Significant changes in behavior or mood, which could include:
- Sleeping a lot more or a lot less
- Being quick to anger
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Drinking more or using drugs
- Engaging in high-risk behaviors
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or saying loved ones would be better off without you around
- Everyone also should be aware of the signs of crisis, which require immediate attention from a mental health professional:
§ Thinking about hurting or killing oneself
§ Looking for ways to kill oneself
§ Talking about death, dying, or suicide
§ Self-destructive behavior, such as drug abuse or the dangerous use of weapons
If you notice these changes, encourage the Veteran to contact the Veterans Crisis Line, or you can reach out yourself:
- Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1
- Chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net
- Send a text to 838255
Frequently Asked Questions
For Veterans who may have mental health challenges, what can be done to connect them with the support they need before they reach a crisis point?
- Go to MakeTheConnection.net to hear the experiences of other Veterans and their loved ones who have overcome similar challenges. The site shares stories of Veterans to encourage help-seeking and provides guidance and resources for those who may be at risk.
- Contact your local VA office to identify sources of support available near you.
- Encourage Veterans to learn more about the benefits they’re entitled to — including VA health care as well as education, employment, and many other programs available through the Veterans Benefits Administration.
Why are some Veterans so reluctant to seek treatment?
- It can be hard to identify mental health or readjustment issues, especially your own.
- Some Veterans may notice symptoms but aren’t sure what to do about them, or they may not recognize that symptoms are a sign of a treatable mental health issue.
- Veterans also may worry that seeking treatment might have a negative impact on their lives.
What VA resources are available for Veterans in crisis?
- The Nation’s largest integrated suicide prevention program
- The Veterans Crisis Line, a key source of support and referrals to additional resources
- A national network of medical centers, Vet Centers, community resource centers, and outpatient clinics
- More than 300 Suicide Prevention Coordinators, who work every day to get Veterans the care they need
What has the Veterans Crisis Line done to reduce Veteran suicide rates?
VA is working to eliminate suicide among all Veterans, whether they are enrolled in VA health care or not.
- Suicide is a national public health issue that affects all Americans. This is a national emergency that requires bold action.
- Suicide is preventable. We can all help someone who may be at risk through simple actions that can make a big difference.
- Even one Veteran suicide is too many. VA is aggressively undertaking new initiatives to expand available mental health services and suicide prevention resources and to connect all at-risk Veterans with care and support.
Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has:
- Answered more than 3.3 million calls, nearly 395,000 chats, and more than 92,000 texts*
- Dispatched emergency services to callers in imminent crisis more than 93,000 times*
- Forwarded more than 536,000 referrals to local Suicide Prevention Coordinators*
*Data from the March 2018 Veterans Crisis Line volume metrics report.
Which Veterans are most at risk for suicide?
In June 2018, VA released findings from its most recent analysis of suicide rates from 2005 to 2015 for both Veteran and non-Veteran populations segmented by age, race, and gender. The findings also include Veteran suicide rates based on service branch and era, suicide method, and suicide risk factors. These data inform the ongoing work of VA and its partners to prevent suicide and expand the network of support for Veterans. While there is no one profile of a typical Veteran who attempts or dies by suicide, VA’s analysis of Veteran suicide data helps us to better understand and address suicide risk factors.
Key findings from the national data report include:
- In 2015, an average of 20.6 active-duty Service members, non-activated Guard or Reserve members, and other Veterans died by suicide each day. 6.1 of these were Veterans who had recently used VHA services.
- In 2015, Veterans accounted for 14.3 percent of all deaths by suicide among U.S. adults and constituted 8.3 percent of the U.S. adult population (ages 18 and up). In 2010, Veterans accounted for 16.5 percent of all deaths by suicide and represented 9.6 percent of the U.S. adult population.
- In 2015, rates of suicide were highest among younger Veterans (ages 18–34) and lowest among older Veterans (ages 55 and older). However, Veterans ages 55 and older accounted for 58.1 percent of all Veteran suicide deaths in 2015.
- After adjusting for differences in age, the rate of suicide in 2015 was 2.1 times higher among Veterans compared with non-Veteran adults.
- After adjusting for differences in age, the rate of suicide in 2015 was 1.3 times higher among male Veterans compared with non-Veteran adult men.
- After adjusting for differences in age, the rate of suicide in 2015 was 2.0 times higher among female Veterans compared with non-Veteran adult women.
- The burden of suicide resulting from firearm injuries remains high among Veterans. In 2015, the percent of suicide deaths that involved firearms remained unchanged from 2014 at 67.0 percent.