I’m starting this article on suicide prevention with a short, simple quiz.
Who do you know better than anyone else? Their fears, their hopes and their dreams?
Who do you spend all your time with?
If you answered “me,” you’re correct. But, how often do you take the time to check in with yourself?
It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life and put yourself last, especially around the holidays. In fact, Veterans were trained to put others’ needs ahead of their own. Think back to why you joined the military. It probably had something—or a lot—to do with wanting to be a part of something bigger than yourself. And part of that was relying on others to accomplish the mission.
It’s the same once you get out. Everyone faces struggles in life, and no one can get through them alone.
To stay mentally and physically healthy, you can’t wait until everything piles up. You can’t wait for a crisis to happen. You have to reach out for support when you need it.
The value of finding support
With the holidays upon us, you may be in touch with more friends and family than usual. If someone you care about told you they’re struggling and they need your support, would you help them? Even if they’re going through a crisis and thinking about suicide? Most Veterans I know would say, “Yes.”
This also goes the other way. If you recognize you need help, reach out to the people around you, or you can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at Dial 988 then Press 1.
Some things to look out for are:
Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness or mood swings
Feeling excessive guilt, shame or sense of failure
Increasing alcohol or drug misuse
Neglecting personal welfare and appearance
You can also take a confidential, anonymous self-check quiz to see if stress and depression might be affecting you.
While some Veterans say this would make them feel like a burden—and I can understand why they would feel that way—it’s not true. There are people who want to be there for you.
How to find support
If you or the Veterans in your life need support, VA offers many resources that can help. And you don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to use any of them:
VA Suicide Prevention: Explore suicide prevention resources to build networks of support among community-based organizations, VSOs, health care providers and other members of your community who strengthen protective factors for Veterans.
VA’s Resource Locator: This tool can connect you to the nearest resources within 10 miles from your ZIP code. Results will include the type of resource and its name, address and phone number, a link to its website and the distance from the ZIP code you entered.
VA Mental Health: VA’s repository of mental health resources, information and data materials.
Make the Connection: More than 600 Veterans and family members from across the country have shared their stories of strength and recovery. It only takes a few seconds to find a story just for you.
Don’t wait. Reach out.: Get support designed specifically for you. Family members or friends can find resources for the Veterans in your life.
Don’t wait to reach out for support
I know how hard it can be to ask for help. It’s natural to want to keep pushing forward even when times are rough. But you don’t have to carry the weight alone. The Veterans Crisis Line is a call, chat or text away, and it can help with whatever you’re going through: Dial 988 then Press 1, chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text 838255. By staying in touch with the people you care about—including yourself—you can find the hope and support you deserve. Not just during the holidays but all year.