Skip to content

Ava VFW Ladies Auxiliary Reminds Us: September Is Suicide Awareness Month

According to the U.S. Department of Defense website, Jacqueline Garrick, acting director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, the service member suicide rate had increased from 10.3 to 18.3 per 100,000, when she spoke to the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee in March.

Defense Department officials have closely tracked every suicide and attempt since 2008, she said, and trends indicate the majority were enlisted Caucasian males younger than age 29 who had a high school education. In some cases, relationship, legal or financial issues were present, and many service members used firearms and died at home. They did not communicate their intent, nor did they have known behavioral health histories, she said. “Less than half had deployed and few were involved in combat.”

Non-fatal suicide attempters were similar demographically to those who died; however, they primarily used drugs and had at least one documented behavioral health disorder. Eliminating the stigma often associated with seeking help is critical to preventing suicide, Garrick said. “Since service members often believe that seeking care is career-ending, training is key.”

Help Soldiers Hold On. Connect them to Veterans Crisis Line. The Veterans Crisis line is one way to help Veterans hold on. Veterans, families and friends can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1; chat online at, or send a text message to 838255 for immediate support.

This Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) confidential resource connects them with information and qualified, caring VA responders, some of whom are veterans and all of whom are trained to counsel veterans and service members specifically. If all VA responders are talking to others, the call is routed to counselors at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This can be done anonymously.

Arm Yourself With Awareness. According to the Veterans Crisis Line, veterans may or may not show any signs of intent to harm themselves before doing so. However, it is important to recognize indications of that possibility, among the signs are: Appearing sad or anxious most of the time; Trouble sleeping and eating; Neglecting physical appearance; Withdrawing from family and friends; Losing interest in or performing poorly at hobbies, work or school; Frequent and dramatic mood changes; Expressing feelings of failure, guilt, shame; Feeling that life is not worth living; Taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast; Feeling rage or seeking revenge, violence toward others or self; Giving away prized possessions, making out a will; Seeking access to firearms or pills.

See yourself as an advocate. Be proactive by: Recognizing warning signs; know the suicide hotline numbers and web address; be an active listener and by educating self and community.

Taken from the Ladies Auxiliary VFW Magazine September 2013 by Ladies Auxiliary VFW, Post 5993, Ava.