What does it mean if you are having feelings of hopelessness?
Do you sometimes feel like your life is worthless and will never get better? Do you ever 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 thoughts of harming yourself or not taking care of yourself in the ways that you need to in order to stay alive are increasingly serious levels of what are called suicidal behaviors.
Many Veterans may not show any signs of intent to hurt or neglect themselves before doing so. However, some thoughts and actions can be signs that a person needs help. Any of the following feelings, behaviors, or thoughts may indicate that you are at risk of not caring if you live or die and may be signs that you are in crisis:
- Appearing sad or feeling depressed most of the time
- Having trouble sleeping or eating—that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse
- Feeling anxious or agitated
- Neglecting personal hygiene and health
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
- Sleeping all the time
- Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things you used to care about
- Experiencing frequent and dramatic mood changes
- Having feelings of excessive guilt or shame
- Having feelings of failure or frustration from not doing things as well as you used to
- Feeling as if life is not worth living or having no sense of purpose in life
- Feeling trapped—like there is no way out of a situation
- Having feelings of despair, and thinking there’s no solution to your problems
Your behavior may be dramatically different from your usual behavior. You even may be actively thinking about or preparing for a suicidal act. These behaviors are some of the warning signs of being in a crisis:
- Performing poorly at work or school
- Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
- Engaging in violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or contemplating revenge
- Acting 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
Any of these thoughts or behaviors requires attention; the more serious of them need immediate attention. If you have serious thoughts of death, suicide or thinking about hurting or killing yourself, call the Veterans Crisis Line now 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.
Some Veterans’ distress may be related to very 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 or losing a job. Some people may think about hurting themselves 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 who think about dying may see suicide as the only way to escape the pain of continuing to live. It is important to realize that there are many ways to handle any problem—even if you can’t see a solution right now. Sometimes you need someone else to give you an outside perspective in order to see other solutions and answers to your personal problems.
“It was so hard to push suicidal thoughts out of my mind that I would wake up and I would think about suicide. I would sleep for my two hours a night and I would dream about suicide. You know, I would go to bed thinking about suicide.”
Most people who think about harming themselves are dealing with difficult experiences or conditions that can be successfully treated. These may include:
If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is experiencing any of these signs, know that you are not alone and that help is available.
Some people, including some Veterans, hurt themselves and don’t intend to die, but are attempting to “feel” something or “punish” themselves. This, too, is risky behavior and help is available. Never hesitate to talk to someone about these issues. The Crisis Line is there for you no matter what the issue is.
If I’m having thoughts of hurting myself, what can I do about it right away?
If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is having thoughts of suicide, 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 wanted to end it all because I thought I had failed myself as a corpsman. I had failed myself as far as I was concerned by not being the best Soldier that I could be. I felt like I also failed my family. My father had been a military man. He always told me when you serve, you serve 100 percent. Don’t come back any less than that.”
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. The Veterans Crisis Line can also connect you with a suicide prevention coordinator at your local VA.
You can also take a confidential self-check quiz to better understand what you’re going through and if it may be a good idea to seek professional help. 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 connect with helpful resources and effective treatments to help them with their thoughts of harming themselves and find solutions to improve their lives. Don’t try to handle suicidal behavior and thoughts on your own. 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
- Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans 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.
- and you do not have to be enrolled in VA to call the Veterans Crisis Line.
A spiritual or religious advisor
Veterans of all ages and eras have sought help for the issues they are dealing with and are living better lives today. Follow this link to hear stories from fellow Veterans and Service members about their own battles with suicidal thoughts and behavior and how they overcame them.
Explore these resources for overcoming thoughts of hurting yourself.
Learn more about how thoughts of harming yourself can be related to other issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, the effects of military sexual trauma, or posttraumatic stress.
Veterans Crisis Line
This website connects Veterans in crisis with an array of suicide prevention information and materials. This link also provides information related to the Veterans Crisis Line and Chat service.
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.
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.