Want to support a Veteran who is going through a tough time?
Be There. Even simple actions can make a big difference.
We all can take action to help prevent suicide, but many people don’t know what they can do to support a Veteran in their life who’s going through a difficult time. During Suicide Prevention Month and year-round, help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) let people know that preventing suicide starts with this simple act of support: Be There.
You don’t need to make a grand gesture: A simple act of kindness shows you care. You can call up an old friend, check in on a neighbor, cook someone dinner, or invite a colleague on a walk. You can also encourage Veterans to take time for themselves and to focus on their own health and wellness.
If you are worried about a Veteran who may be at risk for suicide, here’s what you can do to help connect them with treatment and support:
- If you are concerned that a Veteran is in crisis or at immediate risk for suicide, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. Caring, qualified VA responders can help you determine ways to keep someone safe and connect the Veteran you care about with support.
- If you notice that a Veteran is going through a difficult time and aren’t sure how to start a conversation or how to connect them with support, contact VA’s Coaching into Care program. Call 1-888-823-7458 to connect with a licensed clinical social worker or psychologist who can help you figure out how to help motivate someone to get support.
- Talk with the Veteran’s friends. Peer support, especially from others who have military experience, can be crucial in helping someone open up.
- Encourage everyone, especially those going through a difficult time, to safely store their firearms. Watch VA’s gun safety video to learn more: VeteransCrisisLine.net/GunSafetyVideo
Letting a Veteran friend or loved one know you’re concerned about them may seem daunting, but know you can make a difference by starting a conversation. The most important thing is to show genuine, heartfelt support for someone going through a tough time and being there to help.
Prepare for the conversation.
When talking with someone about your concerns, try to keep these best practices in mind:
- Remain calm.
- Listen more than you speak.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Act with confidence.
- Don’t argue.
- Use open body language.
- Limit questions to casual information gathering.
- Use supportive and encouraging comments.
- Be as honest and upfront as possible.
Before you start a conversation, learn about suicide prevention and mental health resources that are available near you, so you can help connect a friend or loved one with treatment and support. Find contact information for your local VA medical center, Suicide Prevention Coordinator, and other resources such as counselors and treatment centers at VeteransCrisisLine.net/ResourceLocator.
Know when a crisis requires immediate action.
Everyone should be aware of signs of crisis that require immediate attention from a medical or 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 signs in yourself or a Veteran you care about, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255 to get confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Wether you are concerned about a Veteran you know, or you want to make a difference to those in your community, spread the word that resources are available to help: Visit VeteransCrisisLine.net/BeThere to learn how you and others your community can Be There to prevent suicide, and download materials you can share at VeteransCrisisLine.net/SpreadTheWord.
*Article provided to the Elks for use by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, as part of their Suicide Prevention Month 2017 Partner Outreach.