Help And Resources: Veteran Suicide

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In November, CBS News reported the findings of a five-month investigation into veteran suicides. The results were startling: according to data from 45 states, 6,256 men and women who had served in the armed forces took their own lives in 2005 - that's 120 suicides every week. Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian and his investigative team found that veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide that year than non-veterans.

During the course of the investigation, the investigative team compiled a list of resources for how to find help and recognize the warning signs of mental health issues that could also be warning signs for suicide.

How to Spot Warning Signs

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides the following warning signs.
  • Talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Trying to get pills, guns, or other ways to harm oneself
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting in a reckless or risky way
  • Feeling trapped, like there's no way out
  • Saying or feeling there's no reason for living
    For more on mental health services at the Dept of Veterans Affairs, click here.
  • Suicide Signs Unique to Vets
    Experts on suicide prevention say for veterans there are some particular signs to watch for.
  • Calling old friends, particularly military friends, to say goodbye
  • Cleaning a weapon that they may have as a souvenir
  • Visits to graveyards
  • Obsessed with news coverage of the war, the military channel
  • Wearing their uniform or part of their uniform, boots, etc
  • Talking about how honorable it is to be a soldier
  • Sleeping more (sometimes the decision to commit suicide brings a sense of peace of mind, and they sleep more to withdraw)
  • Becoming overprotective of children
  • Standing guard of the house, perhaps while everyone is asleep staying up to 'watch over' the house, obsessively locking doors, windows
  • If they are on medication, stopping medication and/or hording medication
  • Hording alcohol - not necessarily hard alcohol, could be wine.
  • Spending spree, buying gifts for family members and friends "to remember by"
  • Defensive speech "you wouldn't understand," etc.
  • Stop making eye contact or speaking with others
    For a wallet-size card titled "What to do you if you think someone is having suicidal thoughts," click here.

  • Where to Get Help

    Hotline for Veterans
    Veterans who need help immediate counseling should call the hotline run by Veterans Affairs professionals at 1-800-273-TALK and press 1 identifying themselves as military veterans. Staff members are specially trained to take calls from military veterans and its staffed 24 hours a day, everyday. While all operators are trained to help veterans, some are also former military.

    Clinical Care
    To find the closest Dept of Veterans Affairs facility to you that has mental health professionals, go to this Web site and type in your zip code.

    Veterans Affairs Health Benefits

  • Read more about what benefits are available to veterans.
  • To find out more about what kind of services returning service members qualify for, check out this summary at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • Other Links

    Suicide Programs for Each Branch of the Military
    Air Force Suicide Prevention Program

    Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine
    (410) 671-4656

    Navy Environmental Health Center
    (757) 953-0959

    Marine Corps Suicide Prevention Program

    National Center for PTSD
    (802) 296-6300

    SAMHSA's National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    (800) 273-8255
    TTY: (800) 799-4889