September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and we want to raise awareness on how you can protect yourself and your loved ones from this complex and tragic health issue.

In 2007 the VA established The Veterans Crisis Line, it is a free, confidential, 24-hour hotline for Veterans and their families/friends. Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis line has answered more than 1.25 million calls and made more than 39,000 lifesaving rescues. To reach someone right away you can dial a number and speak with someone, send a text, or just as easily start an online chat.

A recent report found that those receiving care from the VA had a 16 % decrease in suicide. Learning and watching for signs of concerning behavior can help you and your loved ones get help!

Some signs of concerning behavior include:

  • Hopelessness, feeling like there is no way out
  • Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
  • Feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Rage or anger
  • Engaging in risky activities without thinking
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from family and friends

If you notice any signs of concerning behavior here are some things you can do:

  • Start a conversation: Mention the signs that prompted you to talk to them. Stay calm and let the person know you want to help them. Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Listen, express concern and reassure the individual: Let the person know you care and that you take the situation seriously. Letting the person know you care will go a long way in establishing a support system.
  • Create a safety plan: Ask the person if they have access to anything that could harm them and call for help if you feel the situation is dangerous.
  • Get the individual help: Provide resources for the individual. Call the Veteran’s crisis line at 1(800)-273-8255.  Or if you feel the situation is severe, take the individual to the closest emergency room or call for help.

Individuals experiencing such thoughts and behavior can make simple yet effective lifestyle changes to help alleviate these harmful thoughts and behavior.  These can include getting exercise, taking time off of work, and spending time with friends and family to avoid isolation. Ultimately, anyone at risk or feeling uneasy should talk to their health care provider.

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