Here’s how you can ‘Be There’ to help prevent veteran suicide


(Photo: Holly Mandarich, Unsplash)

VA urges us all to be there for one another, because sometimes the simplest gesture can have a great impact on the life of a veteran who’s going through a hard time.

During Suicide Prevention Month (SPM) this September, VA hosted a Twitter chat to discuss ways that organizations are working with their communities to #BeThere4Veterans. Whether hosting events or educating ourselves about the signs of crisis, we all can play a role in preventing suicide.

We compiled frequently asked questions and answers to help keep the momentum of SPM going all year long. Read on to see how you can be there for the veterans in your life.  

Q: My friend is a veteran, and she is having trouble transitioning to civilian life. How can I be there for her without pushing too much?

A: The first thing is to just be there for your friend and show that you’re ready to help. It can be difficult to start the conversation, but it’s an important step for both of you. After you open the lines of communication, be sure to show your friend that you’re really listening to her needs. From there, you two can work together to determine which resources might be the best fit to help her cope. Discover resources at VeteransCrisisLine.net/BeThereVeterans.

Q: My husband has been withdrawing from his friends and family during the past few days, and I’m afraid he might harm himself. What should I do?

A: If you are not in immediate danger, we recommend checking our list of suicide warning signs to determine whether your husband may be at risk. Visit VeteransCrisisLine.net/SignsOfCrisis.

If you are concerned that he may be at risk for suicide, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net. Caring, qualified VA responders can help you determine ways to keep you and your husband safe and connect him with support.

Q: What do you do if your loved one completely refuses to seek help?

A: Having conversations about treatment with loved ones can be difficult. Family members who need advice can call VA’s Coaching into Care, a resource that can help you figure out how to encourage your loved one to consider finding mental health care. Visit www.mirecc.va.gov/coaching to learn more.

If you believe a loved one is at immediate risk for suicide, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net.

Q: Suicide prevention is important to me, and I am trying to get involved with veterans in my community. How can I help?

A: There are a few ways that you can be there in your community. Take a look at our Community Outreach document to learn about resources you can share and actions you can take.

To find opportunities to stay involved with veterans in your community, contact VA Voluntary Service at www.volunteer.va.gov.

Q: I’d like to find a local place for veteran support in my area, but I don’t know where to start. How can I find one?

A: The Veterans Crisis Line offers a resource locator for finding veteran resources in your area, including Vet Centers, VA medical centers, Suicide Prevention Coordinators, and other resources outside of VA. Visit www.VeteransCrisisLine.net/GetHelp/ResourceLocator.aspx

Q: I want to share some resources online. Where should I start?

A: You can share words of support on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Here’s how:

  • Explore the Be There support toolkit, which lists simple ways to show you care. Spread the word using the toolkit’s Twitter and Facebook share functions.
  • Share our PSA, Be There, which features actual veterans and Service members talking about the small actions of friends and family that made a big difference to them. Play this PSA anywhere with video capabilities, including community centers, waiting rooms, and at local events. Download the full version: http://spreadtheword.veteranscrisisline.net/video.

Learn more about the resources available to veterans and Service members in crisis, as well as for their families and friends, at VeteransCrisisLine.net/BeThere.

By U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention