• Jun 26, 2022
  • 9:55 AM

Suicide Prevention – What To Do

Suicide Prevention is Everyone's Business

 VA S.A.V.E. training can help you if you encounter a Veteran in crisis:

S.A.V.E. stands for “Signs,” “Ask,” “Validate,” and “Encourage and Expedite."

Signs of suicidal thinking should be recognized

There are behaviors that may be signs a Veteran needs support. Learn to recognize these warning signs:

  • Hopelessness, feeling like there is no way out
  • Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness or mood swings
  • Feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Rage or anger
  • Engaging in risky activities without thinking
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from family and friends

The presence of the following signs in a Veteran requires immediate attention:

  • When asked, they express a desire to hurt or kill themselves
  • When prompted, they reveal that they are looking for ways to kill themselves
  • They talk about death, dying, or suicide
  • They begin to exhibit self-destructive behavior, such as increased drug or alcohol use, talking about acquiring/using weapons for self-harm, and stockpiling medication.

Ask the most important question of all – Are you thinking of killing yourself?

There are behaviors that may be signs a Veteran needs support. Know how to ask the most important question of all:

     “Are you thinking of killing yourself?"

Other ways to ask the question include:

     “Are you thinking of suicide?"
     “Have you had thoughts about taking your own life?"

When asking the question, remember:

  • DO ask the question if you've identified warning signs or symptoms
  • DO ask the question in such a way that is natural and flows with the conversation
  • DO NOT ask the question as though you are looking for a “no" answer (“You're not thinking of killing yourself, are you?")
  • DO NOT wait to ask the question until he or she is halfway out the door.

Validate the Veteran's experience

As you listen to the Veteran, ask him or her do the talking and use supportive, encouraging comments. Use the following steps to let the Veteran know that you are listening and acknowledge his or her experience.

  • Talk openly about suicide – Be willing to listen and allow the Veteran to express his or her feelings
  • Recognize the situation is serious
  • Do not pass judgement
  • Reassure them that help is available.

Encourage treatment and expedite getting help

If a Veteran is having suicidal thoughts, remain calm and reassure them that help is available.

  • DO NOT keep the Veteran's suicidal behavior a secret
  • DO NOT leave him or her alone
  • Try to get the person to seek immediate help from his or her doctor or the nearest hospital or emergency room, OR
  • Call 911

You can also call the confidential Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1.

To learn more about what to do to help a Veteran in crisis: