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September is Suicide Prevention Month – You Can Make a Difference

Did you know suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the US? Veterans make up 18 percent of adult suicides in the United States, even though they only make up 9 percent of all adults in the US. September is suicide prevention month. This year let’s make an effort to educate ourselves on the ways we can make a difference. Often something as simple as a conversation or showing support can save someone’s life. It is important that we all recognize the signs and start the conversation. The VA recently launched an online suicide prevention training video called S.A.V.E. This 25-minute video is designed to help everyone demonstrate support and compassion when speaking with a Veteran at risk. Here are the steps of S.A.V.E. that they recommend to everyone:

S- Know the signs

First, it is important to know the signs of someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts. These can be expressed in emotions such as hopelessness, anxiety, rage, sleeplessness, increased use of alcohol or drug, and withdrawal from family or friends. It is important to pay attention and take note of the actions and emotions the Veteran is expressing so you can notice the signs. Additionally, if the Veteran express any of the following, get help and medical attention immediately.

  • Thoughts of hurting or killing themselves
  • Looking for ways to die
  • Talking about death, dying or suicide
  • Self-destructive or risk-taking behavior. Especially including alcohol, drugs or weapons

 A- ask the question

The most important question you need to ask someone displaying these signs is, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It may seem a little pointed, but it is important to ask this question whenever you notice warning signs. Ask it in a natural way, as part of the conversation. Make sure you do not ask it in a negative way such as: “You aren’t going to try to kill yourself, are you?”

Additionally, make sure you leave enough time to talk after asking the question. Stay calm, listen more than you speak, and make eye contact. It’s important that you look confident, make encouraging comments, and don’t argue with the Veteran. This leads you to the next step…

V- validate their experience

It is important that you talk openly about suicide. This will reduce stigma. Listen and allow the veteran to talk while acknowledging the severity of the situation. Be sure not to come off as judgmental, and reassure the Veteran that help is available. Stay with them until they find that help.

E- Encourage treatment and expedite getting help

Finally, if you know someone is suicidal, you must encourage treatment and expedite getting help.

  • Do not keep it a secret
  • Do not leave the Veteran alone
  • Try to get immediate help from his/her doctor, the ER or 911
  •  Reassure that help is available

Overall, it is important that you recognize the signs and start the conversation. Remember, you can make a difference in someone’s life by reaching out and showing you care. At the end of the video there were four scenarios played out. If you know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or is displaying the warning signs, please watch that video. It is very helpful to watch the role plays so you get a feel for how a conversation might go down and be able to enter a conversation confidently.


S.A.V.E Suicide prevention course


Veterans Crisis Line

1-800-273-8255 Press 1 for Veterans

Text 838255

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