VETERAN’S CRISIS LINE: 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1), Text 838255, or Dial 911
22 a day is still 22 too many. Though people cannot understand the horrors of war unless you’ve done it, help is out there. It should never get so bad that taking your life should have to be an option. There is soul worth in every single human being on earth. Didn’t know him as well as I could have, but I did enjoy our Army/Marine talking we’d always exchange in. Nonetheless, in this disgruntled military family, he was, and always will be, my brother. Til Valhala, my friend. Rest peacefully, Paul.
I woke up to this Facebook post two weeks ago from my son, Eric. My heart sank. Another one gone.
September is National Suicide Awareness Month. Recently released data from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) shows the number of veterans taking their own lives decreased from 22 to 20 a day. While the trend is encouraging, 20 a day is still too many.
Last week’s blog helped readers understand what puts a person at risk for suicide, recognize the warning signs, and know what behaviors put him or her in imminent danger. This week, MSAN shares what you can do as a family member to help prevent the suicide of a loved one and the importance of having a crisis plan in place.
If you live with someone experiencing mental illness, consider creating a crisis plan. Planning empowers you by knowing what to do in advance of a crisis situation. It is always good to involve everyone in the process if possible. If your partner or child is unwilling, do it for yourself. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the plan should include:
- Phone numbers for the person’s therapist, psychiatrist, or other healthcare providers
- Family members and friends who can help
- Local crisis line phone number
- Addresses of walk-in crisis centers or emergency rooms
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number – 1-800-273-8255
- Your address and phone number
- Your loved one’s diagnosis and medications
- Previous psychosis or suicide attempts
- History of drug use
- Things that have helped in the past
Once written, go over the plan with your loved one if possible. Familiarize yourself with it and keep copies in several places – in a kitchen drawer, a nightstand, in your wallet.
As a spouse or parent, you know when your partner or child is struggling. Sometimes we get so caught up in just trying to manage what is going on that we deny a family member may be suicidal. As much as you don’t want to see that possibility, be prepared by educating yourself on the behaviors of suicidal people in Part One of this blog.
Another important thing you can do to support your loved one is actively listen to him or her. Active listening involves reflecting the person’s feelings back, summarizing their thoughts, showing concern, and validation. Sometimes a person just needs to “unpack” their feelings in a safe and loving environment. However, this may not be enough to stop a person’s suicidal ideations.
If you think a loved one may hurt himself or herself, call 911 immediately. If you cannot stay on the line, tell the operator your situation and hang up. Someone will respond. While waiting, you should:
- Remove means like guns, knives, and pills.
- Calmly ask him or her simple and direct questions: “Can I help you call your therapist?” versus “Would you like me to call someone for you?”
- Talk honestly about the subject of suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like, “Do you have a plan to kill yourself?”
- If more than one person is present, don’t talk over each other. Speak calmly and one at a time.
- Don’t raise your voice, threaten, or argue. This can escalate the situation.
- Don’t debate whether the act of suicide is right or wrong.
- If the person asks for something, provide it if the request is safe and reasonable.
- Stay calm until help arrives. Don’t pace or fidget as these actions may kick up the person’s anxiety more.
- What if you’re scared and don’t know what do? Don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained counselors will help you.
If you recognize self-destructive and risky behaviors in a loved one, don’t be afraid to reach out. Positive outcomes are possible with early intervention. Your actions can make a difference.
20 a day is not acceptable. Not today. Not ever.
Learn about the mental health resources available to military families on the Military Spouse Advocacy Network’s website at https://www.milspouseadvocacynetwork.org.
Suicide Prevention Resources for Military Families