Why Are the U.S. Military Veterans Committing Suicides?

U.S. Military
U.S. Military

Suicide is an important concern facing the military community. In recognition of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the Real Warriors Campaign encourages all service members, veterans and their loved ones to learn the warning signs of suicidal ideation and to support loved ones in seeking immediate care.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Defense Department released a suicide report for the first quarter of the 2014 calendar year. From January through March, there were 74 suicides among active-duty service members, 24 among reservists, and 22 among National Guardsmen.

Providing early support and the right coping tools to warriors experiencing psychological health challenges associated with deployment, transitions and other aspects of military life is key to preventing suicides and other serious psychological health concerns later on.

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Real Warriors Campaign profilee, retired Army Maj. Ed Pulido has shared his story of reaching out for help. Wounded by an improvised explosive devise blast in Iraq, Pulido returned home facing tremendous physical and psychological health concerns, including thoughts of suicide.

“After I was wounded, I felt like I was not strong enough and I was not a real warrior,” Pulido says. “When I began to reach out for support, I realized that what I was feeling was common. I began to think that all these things needed to be talked about, and I began my recovery.”

It’s important to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation as well as resources for warriors and their loved ones.

What are the Warning Signs?

You or a loved one may be at risk and need help addressing psychological health concerns if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Thinking about harming yourself
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Unable to sleep or oversleeping
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Engaging in reckless or risky behavior
  • Experiencing excessive rage, anger or desire for revenge
  • Having feelings of anxiety, agitation or hopelessness
  • Reliving past stressful experiences
  • Experiencing dramatic changes in mood
  • Giving away personal or prized possessions

What Can Family Members do if their Service Member is Showing Warning Signs?

Service members should not feel alone, and neither should their families. Sometimes, it can be challenging to know what to do if you think a loved one may be considering suicide. The ACE (Ask, Care, Escort) plan is a helpful resource that can guide you.

For additional resources and tips on suicide prevention and awareness, visit the Real Warriors Campaign online or the Defense Suicide Prevention Office.

Photo courtesy: Real Warriors Campaign

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