A friend recently highlighted for us that there are five signs of emotional stress that should trigger our action. They are:
- Significant change in personality
- Decline in personal care
If you observe a veterans with even one of these signs, please ask them how they are doing. Don’t be afraid that you won’t know how to respond to their answer to that question. We are here to help. In an emergency, you can also get help from 911 or from 988.
You can read on this website and elsewhere that there are other signs as well, such as a person giving away a lot of stuff. The five signs listed above seem to be more common early signs of stress. They happen before the veteran starts to give things away, for example.
Here is additional guidance from HelpGuide.org.
If you know someone who’s desperate and may be considering suicide, there are things you can do to help save their life.
Recognize the Warning Signs
Most suicidal people signal their intentions, however subtly. They may talk about death or harming themselves, feel hopeless and have nothing to look forward to, or gather drugs or weapons to act on their thoughts. They may also lose interest in day-to-day activities, neglect their appearance, or demonstrate dramatic swings in mood, behavior, sleeping, and eating patterns.
It’s never easy to talk to someone about suicide, especially if you’re worried you might be wrong or scared about upsetting the person. But speaking up now can help save your loved one’s life. Start by simply saying you’re concerned about the changes in their mood or outlook. Listen to them express their feelings without judging or arguing. Then let them know that they’re not alone—you care deeply and want to help.
You’re not responsible for making a suicidal person get better. But you can encourage them to get help—whether that’s seeing a mental health professional or calling a crisis line. You can also help your loved one make a safety plan—steps they can take in a suicidal crisis, such as calling you, their therapist, or a helpline. If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call the emergency services number but never leave the person alone.
Don’t Believe Common Misconceptions About Suicide
There’s still a lot of stigma and misinformation surrounding suicidal thoughts and actions. Keep in mind the following:
- Feeling suicidal is not a character defect and it doesn’t mean that someone is crazy or weak. It simply means that they have more emotional pain than they can cope with right now.
- Trying to fix a suicidal person’s problems, giving advice, or telling them how much they have to live for isn’t helpful. It is not about how bad their problem is, but how badly it’s hurting them.
- You won’t give someone suicidal ideas by talking about suicide. But talking openly and honestly about it can help save your loved one’s life and put them on the road to recovery.
Of course, you can contact the National VAA Crisis Line by dialing 988 and then press 1. You can also reach them by texting 838255.
There is a new service out there where the people you talk to will be trained veterans, rather than trained counselors from all walks of life. This new service is also available 24/7 365. You can reach it by calling (855) 838-8255. You can chat with them by going to their website: www.Vets4Warriors.com. This new service does not replace the national crisis line but supplements it.
Vets4Warriors is a new project of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care National Call Center. We understand that your call will be answered by a veteran, not by a computer. We have not used this service yet, so if you do use it, please let us know how it went by emailing us at email@example.com.
Like the national crisis line, this service is for anybody serving in a US military uniform (active, reserve or guard), any US veteran, any family member or caregiver of a us military servicemember or veteran.
Hope Matters– When you reach the point that suicide seems like the best option, you have lost all hope. Things seem so dark and you feel so alone. Perhaps you have tried to talk to a family member, friend or loved one. You feel like no one understands how you feel or what you are going through. It is hard to find the words to express how empty you feel, how alone and hopeless things have become. You may hear things like “you’re strong, you’ll be fine” or “just shake it off, you’re just depressed”. Maybe you have always been seen as the strong one; the one that could handle anything and be unbreakable. The one that has always had to be strong for everyone else. Your family and friends know this and see this. You’re the rock. That can make it even harder to admit when you have lost all hope and are feeling suicidal. It can also make it hard for those close to you to really hear you and what you are going through. If people do hear you they probably will not know how to respond. You may hear things like “suicide is selfish”, “think about what it will do to your family”, “things aren’t really that bad”, “things could be so much worse”, “look at so and so-they have it so much worse than you do and they are ok”….the list can go on and on. None of these responses are helpful to someone that has lost all hope. When hope is gone, the light that used to shine within a person is so very dim that they can no longer see it. The pain and emptiness, the darkness and hurt, the voice that tells you that you suck and are no good, the feeling of worthlessness, loneliness, doubt and helplessness…hopelessness.
That is what we want to help prevent.