Get Help: September is Suicide Prevention Month

How do we get more veterans with psychological challenges to feel comfortable asking for help?

Until we get this vital question answered, our nation will continue seeing spikes in suicides among veterans and service members.

With the Army designating September as Suicide Prevention Month, it’s time for all of us to think hard about how we can reach out to needy veterans and emphasize that it’s OK to ask for help.

According to WebMD, there’s lots of warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide. Those include the following:

- Always talking or thinking about death.

- Clinical depression --- deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating -- that gets worse.

- Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights.

- Losing interest in things one used to care about.

- Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless.

- Putting affairs in order, like changing a will.

- Saying things like "it would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out.”

- Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy.

- Talking about suicide or killing one's self.

- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.

Pay particular attention if a veteran is exhibiting any of these warning signs and has attempted suicide in the past. Up to 50 percent of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt.

I believe that a way to stop the rise in suicides is to give soldiers and veterans hope. At Veterans Support Organization, we give veterans hope by giving them jobs and housing and encouraging them to make a living. We’ve helped hundreds of troubled veterans turn their lives around.

Hope. That’s the essential ingredient in rebuilding troubled lives. Once hope is restored, veterans will feel more comfortable taking the important step of asking for help.

If you know a veteran who is considering suicide, contact the VA’s Crisis Line. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or chat online to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Richard VanHouten is the founder and CEO of Veterans Support Organization.