Suicide prevention resources that can help

The Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs have many nonclinical resources to help service members, veterans, and families 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.(Photo: Keith Pannell, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)
The Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs have many nonclinical resources to help service members, veterans, and families 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.(Photo: Keith Pannell, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)

Suicide prevention resources that can help

by Janet A. Aker
MHS Communications

How can we help ourselves, loved ones, and others in the military family who may be at risk of suicide? Through a variety of resources available to all service members, veterans, and families.

As U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, the Defense Health Agency’s top enlisted leader, said in a recent video: “You are not alone. We are all in this together.”

While the Military Health System provides clinical counseling and therapy, it and other DOD entities offer an array of nonclinical programs that are free and confidential.

Service members may experience frequent relocations, overseas deployments, and stressful experiences related to combat as well as significant time away from families or loved ones.

Sometimes, these stressors lead to behavioral health concerns including suicidal ideation, said Nicholas Polizzi, who holds a doctorate in educational psychology and is the program manager of the inTransition program at DHA.

inTransition is a free, confidential program that helps active-duty service members, National Guard members, reservists, veterans, and retirees overcome common barriers to care and quickly access needed services through:

• Specialized coaching and assistance

• Facilitating connection to a new behavioral health care provider

• Sharing information of Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and community health care resources

The inTransition program is just one of many nonclinical resources available to MHS beneficiaries that help you monitor your mental health, understand signs and symptoms, and seek help. Others include:

Tools for Active Duty and Veterans

• 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Call 988, option 1, for immediate support through the around-the-clock consulting for military members and veterans having thoughts of self-harm. You can talk to qualified responders through the confidential toll-free hotline, chat online, or text 838255.

• The Psychological Health Resource Center is available 24/7 for service members, veterans, and family members. Trained mental health consultants can help you access mental health care and community support resources in your local area. Assistance is available through phone (1-866-966-1020), email or live chat.

• Coaching into Care provides veterans direct access to licensed psychologists and social workers for a no-cost telephone consultation at 1-888-823-7458.The program offers help finding ongoing support and provides families information on suicide prevention.

Military OneSource

As the DOD’s 24/7 gateway to trusted information for service members and families, Military OneSource provides resources and confidential help. Learn about suicide risk factors, resources for understanding suicide prevention, and immediate resources available to support you or your loved ones. Read about:

• When a Service Member May Be at Risk

• Suicide Awareness

• Suicide Prevention: The Essentials

Chaplains and Unit Teams

• Chaplains can provide confidential support outside of traditional channels or your chain of command.

• You don’t need to share the same faith or practice a religion to talk with a chaplain.

• Unit behavioral health officers, and military and family life counselors are also readily available.

Mobile Apps

DHA promotes mobile phone applications for those seeking help or wellness resources. Check out mobile apps that help with post-traumatic stress disorder, tools for coping, and monitoring your health, including:

• PTSD Coach

• Breathe 2 Relax

• Chill Drills by Military OneSource

LGBTQ+ Communities

It’s been shown that the LGBTQ+ community can feel a greater sense of isolation than other colleagues and family members and may have increased risk of suicidal thoughts, according to Military OneSource. In addition to any of the nonmedical services available, MOS suggest it may also be helpful to join an LGBTQ support group on the installation, if offered, or in the local community.

Postventions for Those Left Behind

There can also be challenges for those who experience a death by suicide by fellow veterans, combat buddies, family members, loved ones, caregivers, and even those who did not know the person well.

“Postventions,” or interventions after suicides, can be crucial to the mental health of those left behind.

The Defense Suicide Prevention Office postvention toolkit for military suicide loss states that grief can leave its mark on up to 135 people for every one suicide. For those struggling with this grief, their risk of suicidal thoughts or actions increase as well.

What’s most important is to learn what you can, lean on each other for support, and use these resources to seek help for you or a loved one.

For a complete list of mental health resources available to MHS beneficiaries, visit the MHS resource page.

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