Suicide Prevention Resources
Suicide is an urgent public health issue in the U.S. and the tenth leading cause of death in the country.
Alarmingly, the suicide rate among veterans is 1.5 times the rate of non-veteran adults, and over 6,000 veterans die by suicide each year. Suicide rates in the military are still increasing. The National Guard rate is higher than that of the general population and is the highest of all military components and branches.
This is a crisis. But there is hope. By educating ourselves, we can be ready to stand with our country’s veterans and service members during times of crisis, when they need us the most.
The resources below cover the basics of suicide prevention and will connect you to additional suicide prevention training resources. This page also includes a resource guide for veterans, service members, and those providing support during a crisis.
Expand each section to learn at your own pace and find links to additional resources.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis right now, call the Veterans Crisis Line, available 24/7 for service members, National Guard and Reserves, veterans and family members and friends. Call 1-800-TALK, and press 1. Also available by text and online chat
There are a lot of myths about suicide. The first step in prevention is knowing the facts about suicide and why prevention is everybody's business, not just something professionals can address.
It’s also important to understand suicide in the context of the veteran and military communities.
Learn More and #BeThere for Veterans
Check out these resources to learn more about suicide and prevention:
Recognizing common warning signs for suicidality is vital for prevention. You can save a life by paying attention to those around you and offering support to someone exhibiting any of these warning signs:
- Withdraws from friends, family, and community
- Increases alcohol or other drug usage
- Talks or writes about suicide, death, or methods of dying
- Expresses feelings of hopeless or that they are feeling “trapped” or “tired”
- Expresses intense rage or anger
- Threatens to hurt or kill themselves
- Shows sudden or dramatic changes in mood or behavior
- Engages in unusual spending behaviors
- Gives away possessions
- Prepares a will and/or makes alternative arrangements for pets
- Seeks out and/or obtains lethal means, such as collecting pills or buying firearms
Other factors can increase suicide risk among veterans and service members. However, the absence of any or all of these factors does not indicate low or no suicide risk:
- Young and/or unmarried
- Recently returned from a deployment or recently discharged
- Career setbacks (demotions)
- Feeling a sense of loss of honor or subject to disciplinary action
- Relationship problems
- Heavy drug or alcohol use
- Grieving a loss
- Combat-related psychological injuries, including moral injury
- Other health problems, especially chronic pain, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, or panic
- Negative feelings about getting help
Learn More & #BeThere for Veterans
Review these important veteran- and military-specific resources to learn more about common warning signs and suicide risk:
- Military One Source: Suicide Awareness and When A Service Member May Be At Risk
- Prevent Suicide PA: Warning Signs & Risk Factors
If you are worried about someone or encounter someone in crisis, remember "S.A.V.E." to recall the key prevention steps.
Signs of suicidal thinking: Is the veteran showing any common warning signs of suicidal thinking? If you recognize the signs, do not ignore them.
Ask questions: Directly asking “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” is one of the most important prevention steps. This gives the person permission to start talking about their thoughts and feelings, and it gives you the opportunity to support them in the moment of crisis.
Validate the person’s experience: Your body language, words, and actions can communicate that you are there to support and help. Without judgment, acknowledge the person’s feelings and situation. Use active listening to show you are following, and tell them their experience is worthy of attention.
Encourage treatment and Expedite getting help: If the person seems cooperative, support them in getting help. Stay with them or keep them on the phone until help arrives. Explain that professional help is available, works, and is no different than getting care for other medical conditions. You can:
- Limit access to lethal means, if possible
- Call the Veteran’s Crisis line: 1-800-273-TALK (dial 1 for veterans)
- Help arrange transportation or personally take the person to an emergency department or crisis center
If the person is unwilling to accept help or appears to be in imminent danger of harming themselves, you, or someone else, immediately call 911.
Learn More & #BeThere for Veterans
The more you educate yourself, the better prepared you will be to help a veteran or service member when they need you most. Here are additional educational and training resources, several are free and/or offered online:
- PsychArmor: Free S.A.V.E Training
- Defense Suicide Prevention Office: #BeThere resources
- Prevent Suicide PA Trainings
- Mental Health First Aid
- Military One Source: Suicide - The Essentials
If you're a veteran or know a veteran who needs support, consider helping them connect to these resources, especially if they are open to getting care during your initial prevention conversation.
- The Cohen Clinic at Penn and other clinics in the Cohen Veterans Network focus on evidence-based treatments that are proven to work and are committed to providing accessible care to veterans.
- Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides behavioral health care, often for free or a low cost to eligible clients. Care for a service connected disability OR military sexual trauma is free; other co-pays are based on income.
- Vet Centers provide free counseling outside of the VA medical record to veterans who experienced combat, military sexual trauma, or handled human remains.
- For those who are not eligible for VHA care and have insurance, tools like Psychology Today allow you to search for providers by location and insurance.
Supporting someone could save a life, but we can’t pour from an empty cup. If you have or are supporting someone with a mental health or suicide crisis, consider:
- Making time for self-care, such as listening to music, going for a walk, calling a friend or family member, journaling, or reading a book.
- Seeking support if you are an ongoing caregiver of a veteran. Caregivers may be eligible for services and support from many of the resources in the previous section.
- If you’re connected to a veteran and eligible, take advantage of VA resources and programs.
- Resources like SAMHSA’s post-crisis guides for family members and individuals can be helpful for loved ones of someone who has recently experiences a crisis or suicide attempt.
Prevention actually starts before a person experiences a crisis or suicidal thoughts. Reaching out for support for yourself or helping someone connect to resources early can make a big difference.
If you are a veterans or know a veteran who may be having a hard time finding mental health care, consider utilizing these resources:
Veterans Crisis Line: available every day, 24/7 for service members, National Guard and Reserves, veterans and family members and friends. Call 1-800-TALK, and press 1. Also available by text and online chat
Mental Health, Prevention, & Support Resources for Veterans
- Vets4Warriors: confidential 24/7 veteran peer support for non-crisis support. Call 1-855-838-8255.
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Resources for military service members & veterans
- Real Warriors: Prevention & self-care resources for services members, including component-specific support, and veterans
- Military One Source Resources: Health & Wellness and Mental Health - The Essentials
- PHCoE inTransition Program
Lethal Means: Firearm Safety & Medication Disposal
- Project Child Safe: Get a Free Firearm Safety Kit
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration: Save Medication Disposal
Pennsylvania Suicide Prevention Resources
- Pennsylvania DHS Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS)
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Pennsylvania Resources
- Prevent Suicide PA
New Jersey Suicide Prevention Resources
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