How can we help ourselves, our loved ones and other military family members who may be at risk of suicide? With a variety of resources available to all military members, veterans and families.
As a U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major Michael Gragg, the Defense Health Agency’s top executive, said in a recent video, “You are not alone. We are all in there.”
While the military health system provides clinical counseling and therapy, it and other DOD entities offer an array of free and confidential non-clinical programs.
Service members may experience frequent relocations, overseas deployments, and stressful combat-related experiences as well as significant time away from family or loved ones.
Sometimes these stressors lead to behavioral health problems, including suicidal ideation, said Nicholas Polizzi, who holds a doctorate in educational psychology and leads the inTransition program at DHA.
inTransition is a free, confidential program that helps active duty military, National Guard, reservists, veterans, and retirees overcome common barriers to care and quickly access needed services through:
• Specialized coaching and assistance
• Facilitate connection to a new behavioral health care provider
• Sharing information from the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and community health care resources
The inTransition program is just one of many non-clinical resources available to MHS recipients 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 24-hour counseling for service members and veterans with thoughts of self-harm. You can speak to qualified responders via the confidential toll-free helpline, online chat or text 838255.
• The Psychological Health Resource Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for military members, veterans and their family members. Trained mental health consultants can help you access mental health care and community support resources in your area. Support is available by phone (1-866-966-1020), email or live chat.
• Coaching into Care offers veterans direct access to licensed psychologists and social workers for a free phone consultation at 1-888-823-7458. The program helps find ongoing support and provides families with suicide prevention information.
A military source
As the DOD’s 24/7 gateway to trusted information for service members and their families, Military OneSource provides resources and confidential help. Discover risk factors for suicide, resources to understand suicide prevention, and immediate resources available to support you or your loved ones. Learn more:
• When a service member may be at risk
• Suicide Awareness
• Suicide prevention: the essential elements
Chaplains and Unit Teams
• Chaplains can provide confidential support outside of traditional channels or your chain of command.
• You do not need to share the same faith or practice a religion to speak with a chaplain.
• Unit Behavioral Health Officers and Military and Family Life Counselors are also readily available.
DHA promotes mobile phone apps for those seeking help or wellness resources. Discover mobile apps that help manage post-traumatic stress disorder, tools to cope and monitor your health, including:
• PTSD Coach
• Breathe 2 Relax
• Cool Down Exercises by Military OneSource
It has been shown that the LGBTQ+ community may feel a greater sense of isolation than other co-workers and family members and may have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, according to Military OneSource. In addition to any non-medical services available, MOS suggests that it may also be helpful to join an LGBTQ support group on the facility, if offered, or in the local community.
Postventions for the left behind
There can also be challenges for those experiencing a death by suicide by other veterans, battle buddies, family members, loved ones, caregivers, and even those who did not know the person well.
Postventions, or interventions after suicides, can be crucial for the mental health of those left behind.
The Defense Suicide Prevention Office’s Postvention Toolkit for Military Suicide Losses indicates that bereavement can leave its mark on up to 135 people for each suicide. For those who struggle with this grief, their risk of suicidal thoughts or actions also increases.
The most important thing is to learn what you can, lean on each other for support, and use those resources to ask for help for yourself or a loved one.
For a complete list of mental health resources available to MHS recipients, visit the MHS Resources page.