10 September 2021 is World Suicide Prevention Day – an annual awareness day to help encourage conversations around mental health and prevent suicide across the globe.
In support of the day, we’re helping spread awareness of how everyone can help to notice the warning signs of suicide, support themselves and their loved ones who may be feeling hopeless, and to help people know what support is available to them.
If you’re a veteran, or a veteran’s friend, family members or carer, we are here for you, to help support you before you reach crisis.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, please reach out – call us now on 0800 138 1619. Our Helpline is free to contact and available 24/7.
A career in the military can be rewarding, but it can also expose servicemen and women to more risk, pressure and trauma than they would experience in other jobs.
A significant minority of service personnel and veterans develop mental health conditions that, left untreated, can have devastating consequences for them and their loved ones.
What causes suicidal thoughts
What causes suicidal thoughts There are many circumstances that can leave someone feeling suicidal. We know from our research that many of the veterans we treat have suicidal thoughts.
This is especially the case in those who:
- are unemployed
- are early service leavers
- have a history of childhood problems
- take less than five years to seek help for mental health issues.
Other circumstances that can cause someone to feel suicidal, include:
- worsening mental health
- unresolved trauma
- feeling isolated
- loss of a comrade, friend or loved one
- relationship problems
- injuries or illness
- financial problems
- pending legal action.
Suicide warning signs
We all want to be able to help loved ones if they’re feeling suicidal, but it can be difficult to know what signs to look out for and how to help.
While there isn’t necessarily any typical pattern of behaviour for someone who is suicidal, there are common warning signs.
- Someone who is normally punctual now being late for things
- Drinking more than usual or drinking on their own
- Missing group activities or meals
- Losing energy and struggling with day-to-day life
- Making negative statements and feeling like everyone is against them
- Talking about dying or wanting to die
- Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no way out of problems
- Mentioning strong feelings of guilt and shame
- Talking about not having a reason to live or that others would be better off without them
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Giving away personal items and wrapping up loose ends
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- Unusual changes in behaviour
- Anger and aggression
- Someone who has been sad and struggling with depression may suddenly become calm and seemingly happy and at peace.
- Increased substance abuse
- Unusual mood swings.
- Changes in sleeping patterns.
- Accessing lethal means – Stockpiling medication
- Emotional distance
- Lost interest in normal activities, work and home, and things they once enjoyed.
- Unexplained physical pain and discomfort may be a call for help.
How to help
If you have a loved one who is feeling suicidal, it’s important you know what to do. The key things to remember are to stay calm, remove yourself from any dangerous situation, be available to listen if it’s safe to do so, and call the emergency services.
You may be concerned that asking someone who is suicidal how they’re feeling could make things worse, but in fact many people who feel suicidal are relieved that somebody is listening to them. So, you need to have the courage to ask ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself? Do you have a plan? Do you actually know how you'll do it?’
Listen patiently and express care and concern.
If you’re with the person, try not to leave them alone. Remove any means that could be used for self-injury, such as pills. If they're carrying a weapon, don't try to disarm them because your safety might be at risk. Take them to the nearest A&E or call 999.
If they’re in the military, contact their chain of command, a chaplain behavioural health professional or medical centre staff.
If you're on the phone with them, try to keep them on the phone. If you can, try to get them to seek immediate help from a doctor or offer to call someone for them.
What support is available?
We are here to intervene before someone reaches crisis. We encourage all veterans, and their loved ones, to please speak up and seek professional support. Don’t struggle in silence. The Combat Stress 24-hour Helpline provides veterans, serving personnel and their families with confidential support and advice. You can call 0800 138 1619, text 07537 173683 (standard charges may apply) or email email@example.com.
Support for a crisis situation:
Samaritans has a dedicated 24-hour helpline that caters for military personnel and veterans who are in a crisis, such as feeling suicidal. Call free on 116 123.
In a crisis situation/emergency, please call 999 for immediate support.