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Suicide Prevention: Reaching Out is a Sign of Strength

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the nation continues its drawdown of combat forces deployed to Afghanistan, warriors are coping with challenges associated with deployment and transitions. According to a recent report from the Pentagon, as many as 349 military service members committed suicide in 2012. "Experiencing psychological stress as a result of a deployment is common," says Dr. Miguel Roberts, Resilience Division Chief, Deployment Health Clinical Center. Providing early support to warriors experiencing challenges associated with deployment, transitions and other aspects of military life can provide the right coping tools to prevent more serious psychological health concerns, including thoughts of suicide, later on.

"Common signs of psychological stress are feelings of anger, anxiety or guilt; and for some service members and veterans, these prolonged feelings may be a sign of more serious conditions such as depression and other invisible wounds," Roberts says.

Warriors coping with these concerns may feel that they cannot escape from their symptoms and in turn may lead them to thoughts of suicide. Suicidal thoughts can be associated with psychological concerns that can be cared for, so proactively seeking support early is the best way to ensure resilience and a positive outcome.

Retired Army Maj. Ed Pulido, a volunteer for the Defense Department's Real Warriors Campaign, says reaching out for care when he began having thoughts of suicide after being wounded by an improvised explosive device while deployed made a real difference in his life.

"After I was wounded, I felt like I was not strong enough and I was not a real warrior," Pulido says. "When I began to reach out for support, I realized that what I was feeling was common. I began to think that all these things needed to be talked about, and I began my recovery."   

Roberts says there are common signs and symptoms warriors and loved ones can recognize if they or someone they love may be at risk of a serious psychological health concern:

  • Thinking about hurting or killing himself or herself
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Unable to sleep or oversleeping
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Engaging in reckless or risky behavior
  • Experiencing excessive rage, anger or desire for revenge
  • Having feelings of anxiety, agitation or hopelessness
  • Reliving past stressful experiences
  • Experiencing dramatic changes in mood
  • Giving away personal or prized possessions

If you or someone you know is exhibiting one or more of the signs or symptoms listed above, it's important to reach out for help and support immediately through the Military Crisis Line (visit the Military Crisis Line Chat or call 800-273-TALK to talk with a crisis counselor).  

The following tips can also be helpful and supportive for you or a fellow warrior to return to optimum health and functioning:

  • Try to stay organized by creating a daily schedule of tasks and activities. Cross out tasks as they're accomplished so he or she can have a visual reminder of their achievements
  • Consider writing in a journal to express pain, anger, fear or other emotions
  • Be social. Get together with family, friends, co-workers or other members of the community regularly
  • Stay physically fit by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising,  and getting sufficient sleep
  • Stay motivated in tough times by keeping their personal and career goals in mind
  • Use relaxation techniques, such as relaxation breathing and meditation, to aid in stress management

Warriors should not feel alone when coping with psychological health concerns. Every service member, veteran and family member should feel comfortable reaching out to their units, chain of command, fellow warriors and community resources for support. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength that benefits their families, their units, their service branch, their communities and ultimately can save a life.

For additional resources and tips on suicide prevention, visit the Real Warriors Campaign online at www.realwarriors.net or the Defense Suicide Prevention Office at http://suicideoutreach.org/. Contact the DCoE Outreach Center to talk with trained health resource consultants for assistance 24/7 by calling 866-966-1020. Read campaign articles such as "You are your Friend's Biggest Support" (http://www.realwarriors.net/active/treatment/suicideprevention.php) and "Suicide Prevention Resources for Military Families" (http://www.realwarriors.net/family/support/preventsuicide.php) and listen to the podcast "You Are Not Alone: Suicide Prevention Resources for Warriors" (http://www.realwarriors.net/podcasts/episode026).

SOURCE The Real Warriors Campaign

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