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Veteran Suicide — Where to Seek Help

Suicide is a public health issue that affects people from all walks of life, including those who have served in the military. In fact, since 2001 more than 114,000 veterans have died by suicide and by 2030, the total number of veteran suicides is expected to be 23 times higher than the number of post-9/11 combat deaths.

veterans suicide

Those who serve or have served can experience severe mental health issues and life crises. They can be heightened by their experiences during military service or difficulties with transitioning to civilian life post-service. For many veterans, asking for help is a very difficult task. Sometimes they are unaware of the resources available, other times they may feel like no one could possibly understand what they’ve been through and continue to live with every single day.

Thus, suicide remains a major, yet preventable health problem in the U.S. We all have to do our part to make sure veterans know help is available, and they are not alone in their struggles. Continue reading to learn how to seek information and where to find support.

Why Are Veterans at Higher Risk of Suicide?

While many veterans manage to readjust to life after their military service has ended, there’s still a large number of military men and women who may experience difficulties adjusting back to living in their communities.

More than 40% of veterans struggle when transitioning, and those individuals are up to 5 times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts or attempt to take their own lives. There are several issues that can be identified as some of the biggest challenges veterans face after leaving the battlefield behind.

veterans at the meeting

Mental Health Issues

Veterans are at higher risk of developing mental health issues, with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), moral injury, as well as anxiety and depression being some of the most common mental health problems they experience.

TBI is an injury to the brain caused by an external force causing visual disturbances, headache, memory, processing, balance, and emotional issues. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) quote: According to Resurrecting Lives “over 750,000 veterans of the Global War on Terror are suffering from TBI as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

PTSD causes intense responses to stimuli, including flashbacks and combative behavior. A moral injury can occur in response to acting or witnessing behaviors that go against veteran’s values and moral beliefs.

veterans depression and anxiety

Veterans may also suffer from anxiety and depression or start overusing substances such as alcohol and drugs. The military environment can act as a catalyst for the development and progression of these problems. Fortunately, with the right help, it is possible to recover from them and live a long and healthy life.

Social Difficulties

When coming home, veterans also often deal with an abundance of social issues. For instance, they may struggle to reconnect with their families or be convinced that no one could possibly understand what they’ve been through. It is also usually challenging for them to become a part of their community again.

For some veterans, nothing seems to be as it was when they left for the military, while others struggle with lack of understanding or sensitivity from people who never served and have little to no idea about the duty and battlefield.

Economic Challenges

There may be a special day dedicated to celebrating the service and sacrifice of the U.S. veterans, but this doesn’t change the reality of some veterans who struggle with issues such as homelessness, unemployment, poverty, or inability to cover the raisins costs of living.

Many people begin their military career at a young age, right after they graduate high school. They often come back and try to adjust to the world that expects them to have a higher education or years of experience they simply lack due to years spent serving their country.

For these reasons, veterans often feel that the public does not understand the problems those who have served face in transitioning to civilian life.

What Are the Warning Signs of Suicide?

The military suicide crisis is a complex issue. To make matters more difficult, no one can exactly predict who and when will make the heart-wrenching decision to take their own life. There are even instances where those left behind say there were “no warning signs” at all.

While it’s true that sometimes suicides can appear to happen “out of nowhere,” some veterans may show signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or hopelessness, such as:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies, work, or things they used to care deeply and be passionate about,

  • Lack of care about what they look like or what happens to them in the future,

  • Slowly yet surely pulling away from family, friends, and society,

  • Seeming sad, anxious, depressed, or agitated and upset most of the time,

  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much,

  • Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame and failure.

  • Talking about lack of purpose in life or feeling trapped,

Some people may also show changes in their behavior and the way they act, and start to:

  • Take unnecessary risks

  • Become violent or aggressive,

  • Do things to prepare for suicide (give away personal items, seek access to guns or pills, make a will),

  • Make plans for how or when to attempt suicide,

  • Increase alcohol or drug misuse.

How to Seek Help When You’re Struggling?

No two veterans have the same experience with service. Crisis feels different for everybody and can be caused by numerous situations before, during, or even after military service. If you’re a veteran who struggles with mental health issues, social difficulties, or economic challenges of any kind, here’s how you can reach out for help:

Start a Conversation

Many veterans feel hesitant to speak about what they’ve been through and what’s happening to them now, but you shouldn’t be afraid to let others know what you need. Whether they ask you or you need to approach them, it’s important that you allow for the conversation to happen and let them know what’s going on.

veterans meeting talk

Use Confidential Services

Veterans who are going through a difficult time can access services such as:

  • Veterans Crisis Line — it’s a confidential, 24/7 service that connects veterans in crisis, as well as their families and friends, with highly qualified responders through a toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Support for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals is also available.

  • Department of Defense's Military OneSource — a valuable resource for information, answers, and support to help military members reach their goals and overcome challenges.

  • Vets 4 Warriors — a 24/7 confidential peer support network via phone, chat, text, email for veterans, service members, family members, caregivers.

  • TAPS National Military Survivor Helpline — 24/7 phone and chat for military families and loss survivors.

Find a Support Group

Besides using the official services, you can also try to find a support group. Talking to other veterans who have experienced similar kinds of trauma and are going through issues that you can identify with might be incredibly helpful.

veterans support group

You can access support groups through your local VA hospital, or get in touch with responders from nonprofit organizations and charities dedicated to helping veterans.

Final Thoughts

Suicide prevention among veterans starts with recognizing the early warning signs and taking them seriously. If you’re going through tough times, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

Speak to your family and friends and let them know about your situation, so they can help you. You can also use confidential and professional services by contacting Veterans Crisis Line or using the Department of Defense's Military OneSource, among other sources.

You may also benefit from getting back the sense of comradery that you’ve lost after the service by joining a support group for veterans. You’re not alone, and you, too, can find your way back to a life worth living.

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