suicide prevention

September is Suicide Prevention Month

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S., and military members are not immune. In fact, the rate of active duty service members who commit suicide has risen 6% year-over-year for the past 5 years according to the Pentagon. The problem is most prevalent among the Marine Corps and the Army – with rates of 31.4 and 29.5 per 100,000, respectively. But other branches of the military have issues as well.

Here’s what you need to know about suicide prevention.

The Department of Defense Has Suicide Prevention Programs

The DOD is showing its commitment to servicemembers by implementing various suicide prevention programs. One of these programs includes an interactive education program to teach skills like problem solving and emotional regulation. The idea is that this program is implemented early in a military career in order to address life stressors, and allow that individual to grow into a leader who can teach similar skills to other service members.

Know the Signs

The Department of Defense is working to teach service members how to identify “red flags” on social media. You can help prevent suicide by being on the lookout for these behaviors listed by the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching for lethal methods online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will

Break the Stigma

There’s a stigma in our society associated with receiving help for mental health issues. In fact, research shows that many military members don’t seek treatment because they’re worried it will negatively affect their military careers. The DOD has launched various campaigns to help reduce the stigma, and you can do your part by following these guidelines from the National Alliance on Mental Health:

  • Talk openly about mental health
  • Education yourself and others
  • Be conscious of language
  • Encourage equality between physical and mental illness
  • Show compassion for those with mental illness
  • Choose empowerment over shame
  • Be honest about treatment 

Find a Suicide Prevention Hotline

If you or someone you know is experience suicidal thoughts, call either the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the Military Crisis Line. Both options are confidential.

Veteran Crisis Line

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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