Call: 988 and press 1 for the Military Crisis Line.
This information is subject to change based on updated policies and regulations. Please refer to the appropriate regulations, DoDIs and Army Policies on SP2 procedures.
What situations can trigger suicidal thoughts?
- Stressful life events can push someone who is already emotionally vulnerable to take self-destructive action. These may include:
- A bad performance evaluation
- The break-up of a close relationship
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Relationship or marital issues
- Not having anyone to talk to about problems, issues, or concerns
- Financial stressors
- New military assignments
- Recent loss of a close friend or family member
- Loss of self-esteem/status
- Rejection (e.g., job, promotion, boy/girlfriend)
- Disciplinary or legal difficulty
- Exposure to suicide of friend or family member
- Discharge from the military, loss of job
How can I tell if someone is suicidal?
- Watch for changes in their behavior. Have they experienced a painful, traumatic, or tragic life event? The following warning signals could indicate someone requires intervention:
- Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves (e.g., searching online or buying a gun)
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Giving away valued possessions
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Extreme mood swings
What is the link between mental health and suicide?
- While an unmanaged mental health issue could be strongly associated with suicide, it is important to understand that most people diagnosed with a mental illness are not at risk of suicide. However, those who are struggling with feelings of depression or have conditions such as post-traumatic stress or bipolar disorder may have a higher risk of suicide.
Someone I know is posting suicidal messages on social media. Should I take it seriously?
- Yes. If someone you know has posted suicidal messages on social media, you should take it seriously. You can address the message directly and or report the message to the appropriate channels. Many platforms have integrated crisis intervention into their support options.
Can talking to someone about suicide encourage them to end their life?
- Talking about suicide actually reduces the likelihood of an attempt. Expressing genuine concern and having an open discussion about someone's thoughts of suicide is often one of the key factors in preventing the immediate danger of suicide. Avoiding the warning signs or a direct outcry could leave the person at risk feeling more alone and with less energy to find help.
Is talking about suicide or threatening to kill yourself just a way to seek attention?
- Many of those who die by suicide have given some clue or warning. If someone tells you he/she is having thoughts of suicide, take them seriously. Even what may appear to be jokes could indicate serious suicidal feelings. Do not assume they are just looking for attention.
Do suicides happen fast as the result of a traumatic event, which makes it hard to prevent them?
- There are usually many factors and/or events that occur over a period of time leading up to a suicide attempt or suicide. A sudden traumatic event may “trigger” someone to end their life, but it probably isn’t the only cause. Learning the warning signs and risk factors makes suicide prevention and intervention more possible.
How should I talk to someone if I’m concerned that they may be suicidal?
- Remember the suicide intervention acronym ACE, which stands for “ask, care, escort”. If you see any warning signs, have the courage to ask them directly. You can start the conversation with questions like:
- Level 1: “How was your weekend?” “How was your TDY?” “How is the family? How is work?”
- Level 2: “You seem off your game…what’s worrying you?”
- Level 3: “What can I do to help you?”
- Level 4: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
If someone tells me they are having thoughts of suicide, what should I do?
- Remember the suicide intervention acronym ACE, which stands for “ask, care, escort”. Show care by listening and reassuring the person. Encourage the person and reassure them that immediate help is available; don’t use force to get them help. Use active listening to make sure you really understand what they are saying.
- Level 1: “I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I do care about you. I want to help.”
- Level 2: “Let me make sure I understand. Do you mean… [restate what they told you]?”
- Level 3: You’re not alone. I’m here for you.”
- Level 4: “I’ve got your back to get you through this.”
- You can also contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline:
- Both are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
If someone has been depressed, but suddenly seems to get better, are they still at risk for suicide?
- The simple answer is yes, they could still be at risk. Someone who is struggling with depression may not have the energy to harm him/herself in the moment. A lifting depression or “emotional fog” may provide the needed energy or give clarity to the perceived hopelessness about continuing with life. Open and direct discussion of suicide is the only way to determine which of these directions applies.
What prevents someone from seeking help when in distress or at risk of harming themselves?
- Bias, prejudice, stigma, and discrimination discourage many people from seeking help, or even from sharing the psychological distress that could lead to suicidal behaviors. In some cases, cultural or religious beliefs that oppose suicide may help protect some individuals from suicidal behaviors. In others, they may present barriers to help seeking and can increase the distress of those who have been bereaved by suicide. Broad communication, public education, and public policy efforts are needed to promote mental health, increase understanding of mental and substance abuse disorders, and eliminate barriers to help seeking. These efforts should increase awareness that no one is immune from experiencing these difficulties. Seeking treatment should be seen not as a sign of weakness, but as a step toward recovery.
- Stigma is typically the perception among leaders and Soldiers that help-seeking behavior will either be detrimental to their career (e.g., prejudicial to promotion or selection to leadership positions), or that it will reduce their social status among their peers. The perceived stigma associated with seeking behavioral health treatment represents a very real barrier to care for individuals who would benefit from professional treatment. This barrier is further increased within the military culture where mental toughness is seen as a sign of strength, while seeking behavioral health assistance may be a sign of weakness. Until the stigma associated with behavioral health treatment can be overcome, the Army should continue to look at alternative methods for identifying Soldiers who may need such care, either by command intervention or through medical encounters. The first step toward care, however, begins with Soldiers who recognize when they need help.
I’m concerned about a Veteran who is showing some of the suicide warning signs. What should I do?
- You can still use the same principles of Ask, Care, and Escort (ACE) to talk to him/her about suicide and get them help. You also can access the following resources for additional support.
- Veterans Crisis Line: The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families to crisis responders. Veterans and their loved ones can call Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online to receive confidential crisis intervention and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. More information is available at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ Make the Connection: This online resource connects Veterans and their loved ones to support and helpful resources. More information is available at https://maketheconnection.net/.
- • Resource Locator: The online resource locator helps Veterans easily find VA resources in their area, including Suicide Prevention Coordinators, crisis centers, VAMCs, outpatient clinics, Veterans Benefits Administration offices, and Vet Centers. More information is available at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/military-crisis-line.
How can I help reduce the stigma about mental illness or suicide in the Army?
- You can help reduce the stigma by setting the example:
- Don’t tolerate bullying or embarrassing your fellow Soldiers.
- Get help yourself if you need it. Asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness.
- Offer to help someone in need.
- Maintain a climate of trust/respect.
Where can I find additional information?
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Suicide Prevention: U.S. Department of VA Affairs
Army Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention Report 2010