How do I know if I am suicidal?
Have you been thinking you would be better off dead? Do you wish you could go to sleep and not wake up? Perhaps you have been planning how you would end your life or making preparations for when you’re not here. You may have actually begun to take action to hurt yourself in a way that could kill you. These are increasingly serious levels of what are called suicidal behaviors.
Any of these thoughts or actions requires attention; the more serious of them need immediate attention. If you have serious thoughts of death, suicide or are thinking about hurting or killing yourself, call the Veterans Crisis Line, at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. You can also use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat. Both services provide free, confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Most people who consider suicide have problems they think they can never overcome. They think no one can help them and that suicide is the only way out. People who are considering suicide may feel:
- Helpless—like there is nothing they can do to make things better
- Hopeless—they think that their problem cannot be solved; not by anyone
- Worthless—they think that they are unable to help themselves or feel like a failure
- Hateful toward themselves
- Like they are a burden to others
- As if the pain of living is too much to bear
Some Veterans’ pain may come from having been through traumatic events like the death of a buddy from their unit, seeing people die, or sexual assault or abuse that was experienced either as an adult or during childhood. Other Veterans’ difficulties may be the result of a major setback such as a divorce, losing a job, or feeling as if one has lost one’s honor. Some people may think about suicide due to the build up of stress, depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress that makes life seem as if it’s just not bearable anymore.
No matter what the reason, people do not attempt suicide because they want to die, but because they see suicide as the only way to escape the pain of living. It is important to realize that there are many ways to handle any problem—even if you can’t see a solution yourself. Sometimes you need an outside perspective from someone else to see new answers to personal problems. Other medical conditions such as depression, posttraumatic stress, and chronic pain may lead to thoughts of suicide. There are effective treatments and resources for these conditions.
What are the warning signs of suicide?
There are different types of warning signs you may see in yourself or another person who may be in crisis. All warning signs require attention, and some need immediate attention. Some people will make jokes about suicide when they are having suicidal thoughts. Others may even appear calmer or happier than usual because they have decided to attempt suicide and feel relief at making a decision. Not everyone who makes a suicide attempt shows warning signs. However, signs of suicide should always be taken seriously, even if the person seems to be joking.
If you recognize any of the following signs of suicide in yourself or others, you should reach out for support:
“I know a lot of people think about suicide, I know I have. But committing suicide is the exception, and you need to ask for help.”
The following warning signs require immediate attention:
- Making a plan for how or when to attempt suicide
- Frequently talking, writing, or drawing about death or about items that can cause physical harm
- Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
- Showing violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
- Looking as though you have a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
- Giving away prized possessions
- Putting your affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
- Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming yourself
It is important to get help right away if you notice any of these signs. Getting support can help you to see there are solutions to your problems and that you don’t need to resort to suicide.
What is the treatment for suicidal thoughts and behavior?
No matter what problem you are dealing with, there is support and there are things you can do to solve it. Veterans of all ages and eras have sought help for suicidal thoughts and behavior and are living better lives today. You can hear stories from fellow Veterans and Service members about their own battles with suicidal thoughts and behavior and how they overcame them.
Treatments to cope with suicidal thoughts and behaviors can involve counseling, medication, or a combination of these. Counseling can help you see new solutions and perspectives that may not have occurred to you, and give you better ways of coping. Medications affect the chemicals in your brain that may be contributing to your feeling down and thoughts of suicide.
In addition to treatment, you can adjust your lifestyle to help prevent or deal with suicidal thoughts. Be sure to take time to:
- Set reasonable goals for yourself
- Cut back on obligations if you are overworked
- Spend time with family, friends, or buddies to avoid feeling isolated
- Exercise and get enough sleep
- Slow down, using relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing
What can I do to cope with suicidal thoughts and behaviors?
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or wishing you were dead, you should talk to someone right away. Your family and friends may already know that you’re having a tough time. You may want to turn to them and let them know what you’re feeling and thinking.
“I thought, ‘What’s the purpose of me living?’ I really didn’t want to be here anymore. But what saved me was finding this great therapist at the VA, after I admitted myself into the hospital. That was the first time that I was able to open up about what I had been through.”
You can also call the Veterans Crisis Line, at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat. Both services provide free, confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can also take a confidential self-check quiz to better understand what you’re going through, learn if it may be a good idea to seek professional help, and see how you might benefit from VA or community-based services. Your anonymous answers to a brief list of questions will be reviewed by an experienced counselor who will then send you a personal response to a secure website. The counselor will also provide you with resources and options for further follow-up.
Take the next step – Make the connection.
Every day, Veterans improve their lives by connecting with helpful resources and effective treatments for suicidal thoughts and behavior. You shouldn’t try to handle suicidal thoughts and behavior on your own, so talking to your family and friends can be a first step. You can also connect with:
- The Veterans Crisis line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat. This service is free and confidential, and you do not have to be enrolled in VA to call the Veterans Crisis Line
- Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans in crisis or can refer you to someone who does
- A mental health professional, such as a therapist
- Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans
- A spiritual or religious advisor
Explore these resources for more information about signs of suicide in Veterans.
Veterans Crisis Line
This website connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline and online chat. If you are thinking about death or suicide, call the Veterans Crisis Line now at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat. Both services provide free, confidential support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Learn more about suicide and how it can be related to other issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, stress, or posttraumatic stress.
If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA.
VA Suicide Prevention Website
This website provides suicide prevention resources and information for Veterans and their friends and families.
VA Medical Center Facility Locator
This website will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s treatment programs.