Veteran’s suicide

The call began with these chilling words- “I am going to kill myself.” After listening to the caller explain his situation, it was clear that there was a plan to do exactly that—end his life.
These kinds of calls are common on the Veteran’s Crisis Line. Since 2001, more than two million service members have been deployed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and associated mental health problems are to blame for many of the suicides.
The cost for treating veterans of all eras and conflicts is estimated to be a staggering $48 billion, and yet many Vietnam veterans refuse to go for help. Unlike World War II, soldiers who were welcomed as heroes, Vietnam veterans returned to angry protestors and name calling such as “baby killers.”
The most common means of completing suicide are suffocation or hanging, poisoning and using firearms.
Many Veterans may not show any signs of intent to harm themselves before doing so, but some actions can be a sign that a Veteran needs help. Veterans in crisis may show behaviors that indicate a risk of harming themselves.
Veterans who are considering suicide often show signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and/or hopelessness, such as:
• Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
• Clinical depression: deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating—that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse
• Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep
• Neglecting personal well-being, deteriorating physical appearance
• Withdrawing from friends, family, and society, or sleeping all the time
• Losing interest in hobbies, work, school or other things they used to care about
• Frequent and dramatic mood changes
• Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame
• Feelings of failure or decreased performance
• Feeling that life is not worth living, having no sense of purpose in life
• Talking about feeling trapped—like there is no way out of a situation
• Having feelings of desperation, and saying that there’s no solution to their problems
Their behavior may be radically different from their normal behavior, or they may appear to be actively contemplating or preparing for a suicidal act through behaviors such as:
• Performing poorly at work or school
• Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
• Showing violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or even seeking revenge
• Looking as though he/she has a “death wish,” by tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
• Giving away prized possessions
• Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
• Seeking access to firearms, pills or other means of self –harm
While hearing the fear and desperation from someone going through a difficult time can be distressing, reaching out can help them feel included and supported. Sometimes, small signs of support- a quick encouraging text, bringing dinner, offering to babysit, meeting for coffee, or a quick phone call shows you care and are there to support them. Even if you just have a few minutes, you can help someone feel less alone and helpless.
If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is showing any of the above warning signs, please call the Veterans Crisis Line (800.273.8255 Press 1), go online to get information or chat, or send a text message to 838255. These services are free and available all year 24/7.
Deciding to end your life is a permanent solution.  That threat should be taken seriously.


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