Families and Caregivers – Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention
Although no one is immune to the adverse effects of prolonged, excessive stress, some service members are at greater risk for suicide than others. Young, unmarried males of low rank and those just returning from deployment, especially when experiencing health problems, may be more prone to suicidal thoughts or feelings. Other possible contributing factors include lack of advancement, a sense of a loss of honor, and heavy drinking. Guardsmen and Reservists are of special concern because they often live in areas with limited access to health care services and may not live near an installation that can provide access to programs that can help. 
Suicide prevention is a serious issue for service members and their loved ones. If someone you care about is hurting or if you suspect your Soldier in uniform could be at risk, it's important to understand the warning signs so that you can take action to prevent a suicide and get help.

Did you know approximately ninety percent of suicides are associated with mental health and substance abuse problems?

For additional information or to get help, contact the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) or visit:

Understanding Suicide Risk Factors

Suicide risk factors are psychological characteristics, behaviors, or life experiences associated with an increase in the possibility that someone will become suicidal. The specific risk factors for suicide are generally grouped into three categories:

  • Adverse Life Circumstances
    • access to lethal means of self-harm
    • suicides within the family/community
    • career setbacks or disciplinary actions, loss of a job
    • loss of or conflict within a close relationship
    • financial problems
    • readjustment difficulties following deployment
  • Biopsychosocial Issues
    • history of abuse, family violence or trauma
    • medical or mental health problems, i.e., depression
    • prior suicide attempt
    • impulsiveness, aggressiveness
    • alcohol and substance abuse (which can cause or exacerbate existing depression)
    • severe or prolonged stress or combat-related psychological injuries 
    • overwhelming grief from a loss (death of a loved one, divorce, disabling injury, etc.)
  • Cultural issues
    • limited access to health care
    • religious beliefs that support suicide as a solution; negative attitudes toward getting help
    • limited support

The presence of risk factors does not mean that a person will actually attempt suicide now or in the future. Family members and Caregivers should be aware of the warning signs and if risk factors are present, consider the possibility of self-injury and what you can do to prevent it.

Additional Resources

For additional information on suicide prevention, please reference:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there warning signs for suicide?
If I know someone exhibiting the warning signs of suicide, what should I do?
Is it true that talking about suicide will cause someone to commit suicide?

Are there warning signs for suicide?

Suicide is usually a desperate attempt to end suffering that has become unbearable. With overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and isolation, a person may see death as the only remaining choice. Yet most suicidal people have mixed feelings about ending their lives, and (consciously or subconsciously) give off warning signals to those around them. It is very important to take action when you observe any of these warning signs of suicide. Call 911 or seek immediate help from an emergency room or mental health care provider if the service member:

  • talks or writes about suicide, death, or ways to die;
  • threatens to hurt or kill him or herself; or
  • looks for ways to kill him or herself by trying to get pills, guns, or other means of ending his or her own life

If I know someone exhibiting the warning signs of suicide, what should I do?

Seek help by contacting a mental health professional or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If the service member exhibits any of the following warning signs, stay with the service member until help arrives; never leave a suicidal person alone:

  • If possible, remove any weapons, drugs, or other means of self-injury from the area.
  • If you're on the phone with a service member, and you believe the individual is in immediate danger, try to keep him or her on the line while you or someone else calls 911 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Ask if there's someone nearby who could offer support, and keep talking until help arrives.
  • If the service member is unwilling to accept help, contact command or law enforcement.

Is it true that talking about suicide will cause someone to commit suicide?

This is a good example of a myth surrounding suicide. If someone talks about killing him/herself, take it seriously and reach out and assist him/her in finding help. Many times, talking about suicide is a cry for help and a suicide can be prevented.

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