Last week, our post addressed rising suicide rates for veterans during Covid-19. Awareness of this real life mental health pandemic (suicide) is a great first step. But it is going to take more than just knowing the stats to make a positive change.
The purpose of this post is not to treat, diagnose, or “cure” anything. We aren’t doctors or mental health care specialists. The hope is that some of the below ideas, resources, and knowledge will help you or someone you know, either to reach out, get help, try something new, or be able to BE a positive influence on someone who is struggling.
Most importantly, if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, conversation, or inclinations, please call the Veteran and Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and PRESS 1.
- Talking about wanting to die
- Looking for ways to die
- Talking about feeling hopeless and having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated, or behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying mood swings
Reaching out is a sign of STRENGTH!
Screw the cultural stigma that says if you admit you’re hurting or struggling, talk to someone, need help, or reach out, you are weak. That’s nothing but shame culture, and it’s full of lies and toxicity. Reaching out is life changing & crucial.
- Connect with someone
- Find a licensed therapist, counselor, or coach who is experienced and knowledgeable in the area of your struggle.
- Join a veteran or nonveteran suicide support group. Try searching in your area for this, or connect with a suicide prevention group here.
- Participate in or start a gathering of veteran/nonveteran folks who want to have a place to connect. If not in person for walks, coffee, etc, consider a Zoom or other online platform where you can see each other’s faces. (Body language is super important for human communication, and more impactful than just hearing voices.) The group could be specifically for those struggling with mental health issues OR just a group that’s connecting to chat about life, hobbies, etc. Connection is key!
- Use a free online resource if you are unable to get out and see someone.
- Real Warriors helps spread the message that help is available and treatment works. They have a lot of good information and a live chat option.
- Psychological Health Center of Excellence offers free resources and a call center.
- The National Veterans Foundation Lifeline for Vets will connect you with another veteran who can understand what you’re going through and talk with you.
- Take steps to be aware of your mental health state
- Here you’ll find just a few of the many apps that help with managing stress, being aware of symptoms, practicing mindfulness, and more.
- Journaling, writing down your thoughts, or verbalizing them to a trusted friend, fellow veteran, counselor, or life coach can be incredibly therapeutic and provide a sense of connection, releasing a bit of the burden, and help you see things a different way. Studies show actually writing on paper is more beneficial than typing for most, but any method of journaling is proven to be helpful. Visit this link for a list of free journaling sites.
- Acceptance of the struggle is important. That doesn’t mean it’s fun to struggle or that the struggle goes away. But simply accepting that you are going through something hard can encourage you to not fight so hard against yourself, and more open to receiving help.
- Get Moving
- If you are physically able, get out of the house and into nature or another outside space. Even if it’s a 10 minute walk around your neighborhood, it’s a great start. Nature, fresh air, and a change in environment is crucial for all of us, especially when we are struggling with emotional and mental health.
- Find a local exercise or walking group. Be disciplined and go, even when you don’t feel like it.
- Stop Substance Abuse
- Replace any sort of substance abuse with a hobby, group, or new activity. Alcohol and drug use (other than prescribed medications from a doctor or psychologist) can exacerbate mental health issues and make things much worse. If you need help with cutting back on or eliminating substance use or abuse, go here to see the resources available to you.
How can you help someone else who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or inclinations?
- Just be there. The burden of what someone else decides or does is not on you. But just being there can make a massive difference. Easy ideas for being there and connecting: call weekly, drop off a “thinking of you” random gift, bring some coffee and a donut, offer to meet for a chat or walk at the park, etc. There are endless simple ways to connect and make someone feel cared for and seen. The hotline is also available for you, as a friend or family member of someone who is struggling.
- Encourage the person that is struggling to take even a small step to getting professional help. Being there is great, but most times someone struggling with suicidal thoughts also needs some professional resources and help. Suggestions could include: a suicide support group, counselor or therapist, connecting with the VA for mental health resources, and online groups or live chats with suicidal prevention specialists.
*Suicide Prevention help