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Suicide Prevention Month 2018 Talking Points from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

September 10, 2018

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention Month 2018 Talking Points

Suicide Prevention Month: Be There

Suicide Prevention Month is an opportunity to increase public awareness about the risk factors and warning signs for suicide, provide information about VA mental health and suicide prevention resources, and help individuals and organizations start the conversation around mental health in their communities.

 This September, VA will promote the Be There campaign, expanding on previous successful campaigns to let people know that suicide prevention can start with one simple act of support. Starting the conversation may be challenging, but reaching out to a Veteran loved one who’s facing a tough time can make all the difference.

 VA will collaborate with community groups, VSOs, health care providers, corporations, educational institutions, government agencies, public figures, and others to educate and empower Veterans, Service members, and their supporters to take action to help prevent suicide.

 As part of your community, you are in a position to help a Veteran who may be at risk for suicide. You don’t need special training to safely talk about suicide risk or show concern for someone who’s in distress.

Start the Conversation: Don’t be afraid to start the conversation around mental health and suicide, even if it’s out of your comfort zone.

 Sometimes, just letting a Veteran know that you’re there for them can help someone facing mental health challenges to feel less alone and pave the way for a constructive conversation. Learn about ways you can show support and find information about local resources at VeteransCrisisLine.net/BeThere.

 Conversations around mental health are an integral part of preventing suicide. Opening the door to constructive, respectful conversations can encourage Veterans to share their story and help them feel less alone, reinforcing the connectedness that is a protective factor for suicide risk. Here are some tips on approaching the conversation:

• Understand that conversations around mental health and suicide may be uncomfortable, but the toughest conversations can have the most impact.

• Build conversations around mental health on a foundation of respect. Eye contact, positive body language, and other listening cues can set the stage for a constructive conversation and let the Veteran know that you care.

• Validate the Veteran’s experience, understanding that they may have encountered situations that are difficult to explain or relay to someone who wasn’t in their shoes. You can validate a Veteran’s experience even if you can’t relate to it.

Broaching the subject of suicide can be challenging, but it is important to start the conversation. Keep in mind that talking about suicide does not increase suicide risk.

Know the Signs A major part of preventing suicide is being able to identify and address warning signs.

They can include:

 • Significant changes in behavior or mood, which could include:

 • Sleeping a lot more or a lot less

 • Being quick to anger

 • Withdrawing from family and friends

 • Drinking more or using drugs

 • Engaging in high-risk behaviors

 • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or saying loved ones would be better off without you around

 Everyone also should be aware of the signs of crisis, which require immediate attention from a mental health professional:

 • Thinking about hurting or killing oneself

 • Looking for ways to kill oneself

 • Talking about death, dying, or suicide

 • Self-destructive behavior, such as drug abuse or the dangerous use of weapons

If you notice these changes, encourage the Veteran to contact the Veterans Crisis Line, or you can reach out yourself:

 Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1

 Chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net

 Send a text to 838255

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