By Mark Long, Ed.D., public health educator, health promotion and wellness department, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center
As we observe Suicide Prevention Month this September, it’s important to understand how each of us can make a difference in the lives of others. When you know suicide risk factors and warning signs, you can help prevent, identify, and intervene early to help save lives. There are many resources available to you to seek help. These resources include chaplains, Fleet and Family Support Programs, Marine Corps Community Services, and your local medical and mental health services.
What Are Some of the Factors That Can Put Someone at Risk of Suicide?
It’s been my experience that a person’s behavior can change as a result of life transition events. Life transitions include Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves, promotion, retirement, current/pending disciplinary action, financial problems, relationship issues, or acute and prolonged stress. These risk factors may lead a person to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and hopeless. When a person feels this way, they may have the capacity to harm themselves due in part to their impaired judgement and access to lethal means.
What are the Warning Signs of Suicide?
A person may be in immediate danger of harming themselves if he or she demonstrates any of the following warning signs of suicide (ISPATHWARM):
- Ideation. Thoughts of suicide expressed, threatened, written, or otherwise hinted at by efforts to find means to suicide.
- Substance Abuse. Increased or excessive alcohol or drug use.
- Purposelessness. Having no sense of meaning or purpose in life.
- Anxiety. Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep (or sleeping all the time).
- Trapped. Feeling trapped, like there is no way out.
- Hopelessness. Feeling hopeless about self, others, or the future.
- Withdrawal. Isolating and withdrawing from family, friends, usual activities, or society.
- Anger. Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge for perceived wrongs.
- Recklessness. Acting without regard for consequences, excessively risky behavior, seemingly without thinking.
- Mood Changes. Experiencing dramatic changes in mood.
What Should I do if Someone is in Crisis? We strongly recommend that you ACT immediately:
- Ask if someone is thinking about suicide. Actively listen and acknowledge their talk, behavior, and feelings.
- Care. Let the person know that you care by discussing what is troubling him or her.
- Treat. Stay with the person if he or she is thinking about suicide, and seek professional assistance.
Where Can I Find Help?
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911. Help can be found at a local Military Treatment Facility (MTF) or civilian emergency department.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, seek assistance by contacting the Military Crisis Line:
Chat live online at MilitaryCrisisLine.net
The Military Crisis Line offers confidential support for active duty and reserve service members and their families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.