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 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 Veterans 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 a 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 store their firearms safely. 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.
Thank you for being there for the Veterans in your life and showing support this Suicide Prevention Month.
About the author: Megan McCarthy, Ph.D., is the deputy director of suicide prevention for the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention where she helps shape VA’s integrated public health approach to suicide prevention. Dr. McCarthy is also an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine, and she maintains a private psychotherapy practice in San Francisco.