Preventing Veteran suicide begins when you are willing to Be There

Not sure where to start or what to do or say? Read on


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Year-round, VA empowers communities to take action to support our nation’s Veterans. Each community across the country plays a role in supporting Veterans, but as an individual you may not know what to do or where to start.

You don’t need to have special training to support the Veterans in your life, and we can all do something to help a Veteran who is going through a difficult time. Even seemingly small actions can have a huge impact: preventing suicide begins with just the willingness to Be There.

Showing your support can be as simple as sending a Veteran a text message — inviting someone over to catch up or sharing a positive thought are both great ways to communicate that you care.

Your words could be exactly what a Veteran in crisis needs to hear and could be a reminder of the many people out there who are willing to listen.

Here are some sample text messages:

  • “Hey Tom, haven’t seen you around in a while! We should grab coffee this week. How about tomorrow?”
  • “Just letting you know I’m here for you if you need anything. Call me anytime!”
  • “Hey Amy, hope all is well with you! Been thinking about you today. I miss you!”

When you sense that a Veteran is not doing well, your words can help. You can make a difference by just starting a conversation. Although it can seem challenging, it is important to talk about difficult feelings and experiences.

Keep in mind: asking questions about thoughts of suicide does not increase a person’s suicide risk. Instead, an open conversation can help someone feel less alone and let others into the Veteran’s experience — and feeling connected is shown to reduce suicide risk. 



Keep these best practices in mind when preparing for a conversation:

  • Show that you are really listening. Remember to maintain eye contact and turn in toward the Veteran while they are speaking.
  • Validate the Veteran’s experience. Even if you can’t relate to what a Veteran is experiencing, you can tell them you understand that they went through something difficult and show that you respect their feelings about it.
  • Let them decide how much information to share. Supportive and encouraging comments, rather than invasive personal questions, will create a space for open communication and avoid putting a Veteran on the defensive.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the question. When you are concerned about suicide risk, it’s OK to ask people if they have ever thought about hurting themselves or take action to prepare for suicide. The answers can help you consider next steps to take.

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Simply reaching out to a Veteran in need and opening the door for a discussion could make all the difference.

Learn more ways to show your support and Be There by visiting VeteransCrisisLine.net/BeThere to find more resources and information.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Yvonne Scott    

    Thank you for your service, sincerely. My husband is a disable Vietnam veteran. For my 65th birthday, I started a Wounded Warriors fundraiser on facebook. The goal amount was $250.00. Guess what? We got it! I happen to greatly respect and admire our military and realize the support needed. I know it’s not much, but I was proud to convince people to donate. Be well you strong men and women and please know your service is not in vain. Sincerely, Yvonne Scott.

  2. Valerie Guzman    

    I came across this site by accident. My heart was heavy after reading these posts. It is so sad that people have to live like this. After serving your country you come home to this. This is disgraceful. What I have learned is that prayer helps. lf you would like to pray email me anytime. God will make a way where there is no way.

  3. Valerie Guzman    

    I came across this site by accident. My heart was heavy after reading these posts. It is so sad that people have to live like this. After serving your country you come home to this. This is disgraceful. What I have learned is that prayer helps. lf you would like to pray email me anytime.

    1. Robert G. Bauman    

      I’ve heard your tune for years. God is NOT listening!! I used to depend on that entity for years, nothing ever changed. I would ask WHY, just tell me what I have done wrong and I will accept it. 74 years later, I’m still waiting for an answer! You pray for us, maybe he’ll hear you!

  4. Robert G. Bauman    

    The “Crisis Line” is useless!! I’ve called in total distress only to get a run around causing MORE stress!! Question # 1: “Are you going to kill yourself?”…No! “Are you going to kill someone else?”…NO!! They don’t care what’s wrong, just WHO are you going to KILL!! Then, they call the Police to arrest you!.
    I have been told, “I feel bad about your problem”…no help. I have been told, “Count to 10 and you’ll feel better”…no help.
    In Rural Areas the so-called “Rural Health Care” is a farce…it does NOT exist! I’ve been denied Travel Pay from my home in Western Wisconsin to the Minneapolis VAMC, “because there is a Clinic less than 40 miles away in Wisconsin”, the Clinic has NO Emergency Services nor any of the care services I require. I have constantly complained that in an Emergency situation, ie. heart attack, fall,etc., my wife has to drive me 2 hours to the Minneapolis VAMC because the VA refuses to cover Emergency Care near my home.
    I am a Viet Nam Veteran with a 70% PTSD Rating and total 100% Disability Rating. I, also, have Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), a hereditary heart condition that usually kills its victims in their late teens or early 20s. If the Military Doctors giving the Physicals prior to entry, I would have been sent home with a Medical Discharge from Boot Camp. I had open heart surgery in 2007 to alleviate the problem and have had shortness of breath since then, I can barely walk across the room some days. The VA has checked my heart continuously, but found nothing wrong, they refuse to investigate other causes, telling me to “loose weight”…it has NOTHING to do with my weight!!

  5. dominic francisco    

    Oops, made a mistake, date shoulda indicated: 4/19/2019. ok didja receive our EM?

    1. Donald D Kelly    

      Seems to me you are not “willing to be there?” when you cancelled our group sessions?

    2. john hammack    

      I feel your pain, my brother. I want to tell you it is getting fixed and soon your mind will be put at rest. It won’t. I can tell you as both a former VA employee and a combat vet, that things are better, but you don’t have a problem that is easily fixed. Talking doesnt help much and the drugs are dangerous and only buy you time until you next episode.
      I know I was going somewhere with this…oh yeah. get a friend on the phone. if he doesn’t call you back quickly, call him/her again.get him and one or two others in your circle to help you. The VA doesnt care-they are REMFs and have never heard a gun shot. Friends matter. They can understand and can help.

  6. dominic francisco    

    Did your staff receive our EM sent 4/10/2019 @1536? how come you do not show that it has been received? get with the program.

  7. dominic francisco    

    Did your staff receive our EM sent 4/10/2019 @1536?

  8. David Winslow    

    Having been on the brink suicide myself I totally understand how anyone including veterans and get to the point where they no longer want to live. I have them under the care a psychologist outside of the VA and also I see a mental health professional every 3 months at the VA. I have been doing this since 1981. I have learned a great deal of all myself including how life and get to the point where you actually want to end it. You don’t have to be a veteran and be suffering from combat-related PTSD to get to that point. Just living life in this complicated society is enough at times to put anyone over the edge. Basically human body and it’s brain does not really want to die. Just wants the pain to end in the brain tells us that this is the best way to do it okay. Well I have learned over the pass 35 years or so as to not listen to my brain when it starts telling me that. I have a strong support system of people and at any time I can call one of them to come spend a few days with me 24/7 until the urge goes away. Just having someone here makes all the difference in the world. They don’t have to talk to me but they will listen to me which also helps a great deal. I wish I could convince anyone but especially vet do not listen the brain that is saying put a bullet in your head things will be better. The only thing you’ll accomplish is that that person is no longer around. And they will miss out on the good days and there will be many as long as you can get through the bad days

  9. Vaneishia Carpenter    

    They don’t care if we commit suicide that’s less of us they have to take care of. That’s why so many are committing the action right on their door step. It’s a wake up call!!!

    1. HAROLD REYNOLDS    

      Your right, the wake up call is that the biggest killer of American soldiers is the VA!

  10. Darrell L Kelly    

    We recently had a veteran commit suicide in the restroom of our VA facility in Austin Texas. Still it seems nothing is being addressed. How many more veterans will have to kill themselves before VA does something more than pay lip service to the problem?

  11. Shannon O’Brien    

    Vets don’t get cut off on pain management then alcoholism…street drug use.. depression and suicide rates go up. So be it

    100 % disabled Veteran.. Oregon

    1. J. HOLLEY    

      I just read your post and it hit home. My late husband was a 100% disabled vet; hit during a rocket/mortar attack in Viet Nam & lost both legs. He suffered daily from “phantom/ghost” pains; some days I was afraid the pain was going to give him a heart attack. The pain ‘was not all in his head’ either. NOBODY should have to constantly suffer. There is no excuse for not providing vets with only the best access to quality health care. If the VA can’t provide you with a pain management program that works for you then they should find you doctor that can help . And yes, I see that there is a major problem for those in the treatment of chronic pain; especially with the ‘opioid crisis’ in full swing. There is a witch hunt happening in America; good doctors are afraid to write a script for any pain meds lest they be put under the DEAs microscope. I think this this issue is affecting many vets (especially those that are 100% disabled vets) dealing with chronic pain issues, as theirs is the most treacherous of paths. I am also a vet but am fortunate as I did not have to endure the horrors of war. I am sorry that you did. I see the conundrum you face. I noticed the time of your post & I am often up to the wee hours. Shoot me an email if you want or need to talk. Also, I’m just not good with “so be it..” . That needs to get fixed! Be in touch. Be well & may the force be with you! B*

Comments are closed.