This story originally appears on Military Health System written by K.D. Harris and edited by Mark Oswell.
Every September, the Department of Defense and the nation place the medical spotlight on suicide prevention with Suicide Prevention Month.
However, suicide prevention is important every day especially for our nation’s wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families. Recovering service members often face emotional or psychological concerns after experiencing a serious injury or illness, which can put them at greater risk for suicide.
Within the Defense Health Agency, the Real Warriors Campaign promotes a culture of support for psychological health by encouraging the military community to reach out for help if struggling with a psychological health concern.
Real Warriors supports the DHA’s Psychological Health Center of Excellence in its mission to break the stigma associated with psychological health concerns. The campaign focuses on encouraging help-seeking behavior among service members, veterans, and military families that may be coping with invisible wounds.
Significant changes in daily behavior and experiences may increase suicide ideation and suicide-related behavior. These changes may include the loss of a fellow warrior, friend, or loved one; trouble sleeping; disciplinary or legal action; health, financial, or relationship problems; feelings of failure; difficulties at work; or other personal issues.
“If you start to notice changes in a loved one’s behavior that seem to persist, it may be time to start a conversation with that person,” advised Dr. Nick Polizzi, a psychologist and the Real Warriors Campaign government action officer.
Real Warriors advises those in the military community to reach out for help if they experience or see these risk factors with their friends or loved ones.
Real Warriors also offers the following techniques to discuss with your provider in aiding your recovery:
- Confide in someone you trust. Speak with a family member, fellow warrior, unit leader, or military chaplain. Talking about what is bothering you is a great first step in the process of receiving support, getting other perspectives, and reducing distress.
- Make your environment safe. Give any potentially dangerous items to a trusted person if you feel such items are unsafe with you.
- Avoid alcohol and other substances. Substance misuse may feel like “medicine” for your stress level while making your thoughts worse.
- Take care of your mind and body. Healthy ways to manage stress include physical activities like walking and running, other activities and hobbies, and different forms of relaxation, such as deep breathing and mindfulness meditation.
- Write it out. Consider using a journal to express pain, anger, fear, or other emotions.
If you feel like you are in crisis or if you’re having suicidal thoughts, seek help from a health care provider.
All service members, veterans, and their families are encouraged to contact the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1 to speak with a trained counselor. The support is free, confidential, and available every day 24/7.
If you or a loved one need information about psychological health concerns, contact the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020 to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants 24/7.
For additional information about suicide prevention, visit the Real Warriors Campaign.
Remember, reaching out is a sign of strength.