Home Life October 15, 2019

See the Signs on Social Media & Help Prevent Suicide by Veterans

Erika S., Editor in Chief

An average of 20 Veterans die by suicide each day. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) urges communities to come together and take action to prevent suicide by Veterans.

Suicide Risk Among Veterans

VA is working to reduce suicide rates among all Veterans, whether or not they use VA health care benefits and services. In September, VA released its 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report. The report showed that:

  • The number of Veteran suicides exceeded 6,000 each year from 2008 to 2017.
  • In 2017, the suicide rate for Veterans was 1.5 times the rate for non-Veteran adults, after adjusting for population differences in age and sex.

Take Action to Help Prevent Suicide by Veterans

Often, the friends and family of a person who is thinking about suicide know something is wrong, but they don’t know how and where to get help. They may be afraid to speak up about their concerns. However, speaking up is the best first step to help a person in crisis.

Suicide intervention is any action that has the potential to stop a person from suicidal behavior or help him or her get back to a more positive outlook. Intervention is not only help given in a suicidal crisis; it is also talking, listening and offering help and support at any stage for a person in need.

QuickNote:  Most people who are thinking about suicide show certain signs, symptoms and behaviors that can be recognized by people who are familiar with these signals.

How to Spot Concerning Social Media Content

Social media is one of the most common ways of keeping in touch with friends, family and people with similar interests. Learning to spot content that that may indicate risk of suicide can help you know when to reach out and connect your family member or friend to the help he or she needs.

Signs that a friend may be in distress include the following:

1. Joking about dying or feeling like there is no reason to live

Any post directly indicating a desire to die or self-harm is a warning sign of immediate danger. These posts may be disguised as a joke or masked by sarcasm. Often these statements are subtle ways of asking for help.

2. Expressing hopelessness, feeling trapped or other intense emotions

Posts that talk about being stuck in a bad situation, experiencing unbearable guilt, pain, shame or intense rage can be a sign that someone needs help.

3. Patterns or changes in the type of content posted

Posts describing destructive behaviors such as abusing drugs or alcohol, driving recklessly, buying weapons or engaging in unsafe sexual behaviors can also be signs that someone is at risk.

Helpful Resources

Popular social media platforms have safety teams that enable concerned users to report content that indicates potential risk of suicide or self-harm.

In addition, the Social Media Safety Toolkit is one example of VA’s efforts to provide suicide prevention resources to Veterans and their families, as well as to friends, community members and providers. The document includes sample responses to posts and tweets that indicate a possible crisis as well as additional suicide prevention resources.

For more information on how to help prevent suicide by Veterans, see the QuickSeries® guide: Suicide Prevention – Open the Door to Support

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