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Suicide Prevention

Warning Signs and Suicide Risk


There are behaviors that may be signs you or someone close to you 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 you or someone close to you 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


How to Help

Helping a suicidal person can be difficult, but the assistance you provide could save a life.


  1. Listen.
  2. Take it seriously. Depressive/suicidal behavior is a cry for help.
  3. Speak with the individual in private. Voice your concern; let them know you care.
  4. Do what you can to give the person hope.
  5. Encourage the individuals to get help: Asking for help is a sign of strength. Offer to go with them to counseling.
  6. Seek out a mature and compassionate person with whom you can review the situation.
  7. Use the QPR Method – Question (about whether the individuals plan to harm themselves); Persuade (not to harm themselves) and Refer (to a professional).
  8. If they are suicidal, call 9-1-1: let the individual know that you will be contacting 9-1-1. Do not leave them alone. Engage other bystanders if need be.
  9. If the individual is suicidal, create a “safety agreement” to not harm themselves.
  10. If the individual says they are going to take their own life, find out their intentions in terms of how they plan on doing it. This gives insights about risks to others, as well as more time and information to plan an intervention. Get as much information as possible.
  11. Notice actions and behaviors. Be observant of any medication bottles that may be present; note other important information.
  12. Separate the individuals from any weapons or firearms if possible.
  13. Be aware of difficult times: holidays, birthdays, major anniversary dates.


Help Lines

VTARNG: 802-503-2433 (24/7)
VTANG: 802-660-5463 (Office)
Family Programs: 888-607-8773 (24/7)
Veterans Crisis Line: 988, Option 1


Depression is a mood disorder lasting at least two weeks that can make those suffering feel like life isn't worth living. It may be triggered by traumatic events or stressful situations; it can occur after childbirth; it can emerge during winter months when hours of daylight are fewer; or it may not have a specific trigger.

Symptoms of Depression Include:

  • Feeling hopeless, empty, sad, irritable, agitated, anxious, or angry
  • Sleeping or eating too much or too little
  • Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Being unable to stop negative thoughts
  • Feeling worthless, guilty, or like a burden
  • Feeling like life isn't worth living
  • Isolating oneself or withdrawing socially
  • Having no energy or being tired or lethargic all the time
  • Feeling pessimistic or indifferent
  • Feeling indecisive or unable to concentrate
  • Having recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Mental health problems can cause distorted self-talk. People with depression might see situations as very negative, or might lead them to only see the negative parts of a situation. It can make problems seem worse than they are.

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs, VA New England Healthcare System

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that many people develop after experiencing a traumatic event. In PTSD, the natural fight-or-flight response is damaged or "stuck." People who have PTSD typically feel stressed, hypervigilant or frightened even when they're not in danger. Symptoms may start soon after the traumatic event or months or years later, and they may come and go.


  • Reliving the Event: Victims may have flashbacks -- bad memories or nightmares, or feelings of revisiting the event
  • Avoiding Reminders: Victims may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event and may avoid talking or thinking about the event
  • Negative Changes in Feelings or Beliefs: Victims' opinions of themselves and others may change. They may feel sadness, guilt, fear, or shame, or they may not be interested in activities they used to enjoy
  • Hypervigilance: Victims may feel jittery and always on alert for danger, or they may have trouble concentrating or sleeping.

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs, VA New England Healthcare System