Suicide Prevention in 2021

Suicide Prevention in 2021

 Latest National and VA Suicide Prevention Information

Research has shown that those veterans who stay in touch with their Veterans Administration services are less likely to commit suicide than those with no or lapsed connections. For veterans, this is a big advantage as the VA services are on the front line when it comes to saving lives.

urn for ashes

There is a new national suicide prevention hotline number, Dial 988, that is rolling out in marketing all across America. You can learn more about that here. 2020 has seen a rise in suicides across all spectrums and age groups, including veterans – despite increased efforts to get that number down. With 22 soldier suicides per day, 16 being veterans, we need more prevention. The recently signed Moran Bill recognized the role PTSD plays in veteran suicide, but it will be a year at least until those grants hit the front-line charities it was designed to support. Until then, here are some steps you can take for yourself or someone you suspect of having thoughts of suicide.

Suicide Warning Signs 

Kathleen Smith, PhD, LPC says that people can become suicidal when they feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges. They lack hope for the future, and they see suicide as the only solution. It’s sort of a tunnel vision where other options seem useless. Having a family history of suicide or impulsive behavior is also believed to increase risk of suicidality.

In her November, 2020 article, she lists a series of factors seperated into these categories:

  • History of substance abuse
  • Access to firearms
  • Difficult life events
  • Isolation from others
  • History of mental illness
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Having a terminal or chronic illness
  • Past suicide attempts

There are also emotional, verbal and behavioral markers (symptoms or signs) to be on the look out for:

Emotional Markers can include:

  • Feeling depressed
  • Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Shame or humiliation
  • Mood swings

Verbal Markers include talking about:

  • Killing themselves
  • Their life having no purpose
  • Feeling like a burden
  • Feeling stuck
  • Not wanting to exist

Behavioral Markers can include:

  • Isolating from others
  • Not communicating with friends or family
  • Giving away possessions or writing a will
  • Driving recklessly
  • Increased aggression
  • Increased drug and alcohol use
  • Searching about suicide on the Internet
  • Gathering materials (pills or a weapon)

For veterans in distress, here is the latest from the VA:

If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, connect with our caring, qualified Veterans Crisis Line responders for confidential help. Many of them are Veterans themselves. This service is private, free, and available 24/7.

To connect with a Veterans Crisis Line responder anytime day or night:

You can also:

  • Call 988
  • Go to the nearest emergency room.
  • Go directly to your nearest VA medical center. It doesn’t matter what your discharge status is or if you’re enrolled in VA health care.
    Find your nearest VA medical center





Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

Successful Teen Suicide Prevention Story

Successful Teen Suicide Prevention Story

Successful Suicide Prevention – A Lesson to Help Lower Veteran Suicide

As we continue to spread silver linings of information hoping to prevent veteran soldier suicide, we found an uplifting and valuable successful suicide prevention article that we’d like to share. Although the people in the story are teens, what they do to save a life translate to preventing soldier suicide.

Learn how to react when the subject of suicide arises, how to show you care, and how to stick with it until there’s a good outcome. We thank and have quoted with permission of our colleagues at Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International and their website.

kidpower teen power logo

Here’s the Kidpower article:

“There’s a lot to live for, even if you can’t see it right now. Please don’t go yet!”

These heartfelt successful suicide prevention words are from a teen reaching out online to try to stop another teen from committing suicide.

This article is about what young people need to know if someone sounds as if life is not worth living. This success story is particularly poignant when we think of all the young lives that might have been saved if only other kids had known what to say and how to get help. This story is the opposite of cyber-bullying.

We encourage you to discuss this story and guidelines with any teens who are using the Internet on their own. The very moving on-line conversation in the last section of this article shows the challenges of being in this kind of situation and why adult help is so important.

We learned of this successful suicide prevention story when a Kidpower parent told us her teen daughter came to her and said, “I need help!” We have permission from both this mother and her daughter to share the story – and, except changing for the names and leaving out a few details to protect privacy, everything written here is true.

Our Kidpower teen, “Laura”, had already gotten permission from her mom to join an online social networking site. While she was ‘chatting’ with another girl, “Susan”, about their mutual interests, Susan suddenly started writing despairing comments about life not being worth living and implying that she was planning to kill herself.
Laura first tried to offer Susan support by saying that she thought Susan’s life was valuable and urging her not to give up hope. When Susan continued to sound despondent, Laura recognized that this was an emergency and asked her mother for help as soon as she came home from work.

With her mother’s guidance, Laura wrote that feeling like this was not safe and encouraged Susan to find an adult she trusted to talk with. When Susan could not come up with a name of someone she could contact, Laura and her mother looked up the Suicide Prevention hotline.

Laura wrote that she was a kid who could not provide counseling herself and asked Susan to call this hotline right away! She disengaged from the conversation by saying that her mother had told her to get offline and do her homework – but that she would be logging in to find out how things went.

The next day, Susan wrote to Laura that she had talked to the counselor on the hotline for four hours. She didn’t have any solutions that she thought would work for her yet, but at least she is now on a path for getting the kind of help she needs.

It was so much better that a trained adult had this four-hour conversation with Susan than for Laura to try to provide this kind of counseling. As Lynn Brown, Ph.D., and co-director of our Kidpower UK Centre, wrote after hearing this story, “In my work as a psychiatrist for teenagers, I’ve seen several teens becoming low and suicidal themselves due in part to the burden of attempting to support a friend in this situation alone. It could make a real difference if teens and parents were able to give this sort of a response when teens share their suicidal thoughts online, or in any other medium.”


What Young People Need to Know

We strongly recommend that all adults tell preteens and teens that you want to know if they ever feel in despair or know someone who sounds hopeless because this could be an emergency.
Whether this happens in person or online, if another kid sounds or acts as if life is not worth living, here’s what to do.

Pay Attention. Take action if someone makes despairing comments, such as, “My life is over. I can’t face living anymore. I feel like killing myself.” Don’t ignore the problem by doing nothing or brush it off by saying, “It’ll be okay.”

Get Adult Help. Ask for help from an adult you trust as soon as possible. You do not need to let the other kid know you are doing this if you think it will cause a problem. If the adult knows who this is, preventative action can usually be taken without giving your name. But speaking up is important, even if this kid will be angry or upset.

Remember to Put Safety First, ahead of uncomfortable feelings like embarrassment, inconvenience, or offense. If you think an emergency is about to happen right away, call 9-1-1.If this is happening online with someone you don’t really know, you still need adult help. Hearing about deep despair is hard for people of any age. Even though you know a lot, it is very important not to try to handle this problem by yourself.

Communicate caring. Let the other kid know you care by giving simple supportive comments such as, “You are important. I care about what happens to you. Even if you don’t feel like it right now, there are people who love you. Your life is valuable.”

Don’t get caught up in trying to change this person’s feelings. Many people have occasional temporary thoughts like, “This is so embarrassing or awful. I wish I wasn’t here.” However, having constant suicidal thoughts or starting to make a plan to do something destructive to yourself or others is dangerous. People who feel strongly that they don’t want to be here need the help of an adult with skills and experience, not of a teenager, no matter how compassionate.

Set boundaries. Say that you are not a counselor – you are another kid or another teenager. If this happens on-line with someone you don’t know otherwise, you can also say that you are not part of each other’s real-world lives. You can encourage someone to make a plan for getting adult help but you cannot provide counseling yourself.

Redirect to professional help. People who feel suicidal deserve safe places where they can talk about their feelings and receive experienced guidance to find safe options for coping with hopelessness, pain, anxiety, depression, and despair. You can say that, even if someone has tried talking to adults or getting counseling before, it is worth continuing to try instead of giving up. Ask for the name of an adult that this person trusts. Look up Suicide Prevention Hotlines on the Internet and give this person the phone number. Say or write, “Please call them right away!”

Disengage. Unless you have had professional training and a network of support, spending a long time communicating with another person about suicidal thoughts is unhealthy for both of you. If you are with this person, go together to adult help rather than continuing to talk. If this person won’t go or if this is someone you are communicating with online, make up an excuse to leave so that you can get help yourself.
Check In. Before you end the conversation, ask for a time to check back in so that this person knows that you care about what happens. Your goal is not to keep talking about these problems but to make sure as best you can that this person is now getting professional help.

The Online Conversation

The following moving excerpts from the online conversation between “Laura” and “Susan” provide a vivid example of how a conversation like this might go – and why adult help is so important.
Of course, we don’t know for sure of course who the person that our Kidpower teen was “chatting” with really was but our best guess is that this was a pretty authentic situation. Some details have been omitted to protect privacy.

At first Susan and Laura were “chatting” about the special interests of their online group but then Susan wrote, “I might not be alive soon.”
Laura: “Why? You can tell me, whatever it is.”
Susan: “I feel like killing myself.”
Laura: “Don’t do that. You might not feel like it right now, but your life is valuable.
Susan: “I’ve attempted before.”
Laura: “I haven’t met you but I believe you are a good person and I, for one, don’t want to see you go. I know I don’t know anything about you or what makes you feel this way, but I want to help if I can. And if I can’t, there are other people who can. There’s a lot to live for, even if maybe you can’t see it right now. Please don’t go yet.
Susan: “Why?”
Laura: “’Why’ to which part in particular?”
Susan: “’Please don’t go yet.’”
Laura: “Because there are things to live for, and I believe there are people who love you, even if you don’t think they do. And because I think every person on this earth, no matter where they’re from, what they’ve done, what they believe, deserves to live. Not only to live, but be happy. Every one piece of life, no matter how large or small, is valuable, and I don’t want to see it suffer. There is a way to be happy, somewhere. It will be hard, but I believe it’s there, and that you can want to keep living again. It’s there and you can find it, and I don’t want to know of even one more person who hurts so much that they don’t want to live any more. I don’t want you to go because I believe there is more for you, and you have the right, and I believe the duty to yourself, to find it.”

Susan: “It’s not worth it.”
Laura: “Yes, yes it is. It is worth it. I know you can’t see how, but there is light and beauty and joy in the world, even if you don’t know where it is yet, it’s there. It is worth it. You are worth it. I know it seems hard, and it will be, but it will be easier if you can find someone to help you with whatever’s hurting you so you can heal, and I promise it will be worth it.”
Susan: “No it’s not.”
Laura: “Maybe not right now, and maybe not yet, but it can get better. I want you to believe that. Every night, or every morning, or something, I want you to say to yourself that it will get better, and I want you to notice who and what makes you happy, even in a small way, and I want you to do those things. Find what can make you happy, even in the smallest ways, and that will help. If you want to tell me more, if you need someone to talk to, if you ever just need to vent, I will be here, and if that helps in any way, if just knowing there is someone out there who wants you to be okay, it will get better. There is hope for everyone, even if you can’t see it, and I want you to believe that. Even if you ignore everything else I tell you and even if you never talk to me again, I want you to remember that there is hope. Sometimes it hides, some times it’s hard to find, but it’s there and it will always be there, and if you believe that, if you truly believe it, I think you will be able to make things get better.”

At this point, Laura’s mother came home, and she asked for help. Her mother stood next to her and coached her in how encourage Susan to make a concrete plan to get adult help and in how to disengage from the conversation while being as supportive as possible.

Laura: “I want to help you, but the truth is there really isn’t much I can do. I know you can be happy again, and there is a way to do it, but it requires real people, people who can speak to you in person. I want to help you make a plan. I want you to find a suicide hotline in your state, or your city. Whichever is better. I want you to find one and remember it. I also want you to identify someone, an adult over the age of 21 ideally, but definitely an adult, that you can trust and talk to.”
Susan: “It’s not that easy.”
Laura: “No, it’s not easy, but it’s important. Can you name one adult that is trustworthy? You don’t have to be specific, you can just say their relationship to you (like mother, uncle, friend), but I want you to tell me.”
Susan: “Rebecca” (not the actual name).
Laura: “FANTASTIC!!! How can you reach her? Phone? Email? Text?”
Susan “I can’t. She can’t give me her information.”
Laura: “It’s great that you thought of someone, but can you think of someone trustworthy who you *can* contact?”
Susan: “No.”
Laura: “Okay, here’s the number for the suicide hotline. They have skills and resources that I don’t have, and you deserve help. PLEASE call them.” With her mother’s help, Laura found the number on this website:
Susan: “Why?”
Laura: “Because your life is worth saving and they will be able to help.”
Susan: “No. It’s not.”
Laura: “Yes it is. You are a great person, you will be a great friend to many people. Now, my mom says I need to go offline to work on my school work.” (So that Laura wouldn’t have to lie, her mother actually told her to sign off.)
“So I won’t be here, but I want you to call that number. I will sign in tomorrow and I want to see a message from you. I want you to tell me what they told you, what their voice sounded like, how long you talked. There are people there who can help you, you are worth saving, and they can save you. I want you to call them and talk to them and tell me what they say. When I log in tomorrow, I want to see that message from you. I need you to do it. I have to go now, but I need you to call them.”

The next day,

Susan wrote that she’d called and talked to a counselor for four hours. Her struggle is far from over but Laura’s caring intervention, with her mother’s anonymous guidance, might well have saved a life!



One Last Thought About Counseling

In their drive for independence, teens and young adults often want to handle problems without others taking over for them. Notice how Laura’s mother did NOT take over – she provided guidance and coaching in how to handle a tough problem, including making it easier for Susan to find professional help, not to provide counseling herself.

Point out to teens that there are lots of things that adults don’t know how to do because we haven’t had the right kind of training and experience. Most adults don’t know how to fix cavities in teeth because we are not trained as dentists. Most of us don’t know how to fly an airplane, build a house, or lots of other things. Watching someone else do many jobs is not the same as getting training and practice. Counseling is not just “talking” – it requires a number of skills that are learned though time and practice under the guidance of people who know what they are doing.

And, just because counseling didn’t work the first or the tenth time, doesn’t mean it will never work. Some difficult medical problems can be more complicated to fix and require many attempts with different resources – the same is true for mental health challenges such as feeling like life is not worth living. As “Laura” wrote, “There is hope for everyone, even if you can’t see it … Sometimes it hides, sometimes it’s hard to find, but it’s there and it will always be there, and if you believe that, if you truly believe it, I think you will be able to make things get better.”
Susan’s struggle is far from over but Laura’s caring intervention, with her mother’s anonymous guidance, might well have saved a life!

Additional Resource
For more information about Kidpower’s resources for teaching these People Safety Skills and concepts, please visit our website.

Once a Soldier, Inc is a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to financially support veteran families after a veteran suicide.


Myths and Realities About Suicide

Myths and Realities About Suicide

Myths and Realities About Suicide

One of the more frustrating issues revolving around soldier suicide, veteran suicide and suicide, in general, is that the more you talk about it, the more it seems to normalize it. That’s why I try to be careful with what I post on the subject, and how often. Still, there needs to be a dialogue about the myths and realities about suicide to help prevent them.

If you are in need of help right now, please click here and scroll down to see numbers and other info to get help now.

Below are the top four myths and realities about suicide that you can help dispel by taking action and sharing with
your community:

1. MYTH: Asking about suicide may lead a Veteran to take his or her life.
REALITY: Asking about suicide does not create suicidal thoughts. The act of asking the question
simply gives the Veteran permission to talk about his or her thoughts or feelings.

2. MYTH: There are talkers and there are doers.
REALITY: Most people who die by suicide have communicated some intent. Someone who
talks about suicide provides others with an opportunity to intervene before suicidal behaviors
occur. Almost everyone who dies by suicide or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning.
Suicide threats should never be ignored. No matter how casually or jokingly said, statements
like, “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” or “I can’t see any way out” may indicate serious suicidal

Myths and Realities About Suicide

3. MYTH: If somebody really wants to die by suicide, there is nothing you can do about it.
REALITY: Most suicidal ideas are associated with treatable disorders. Helping someone connect
with treatment can save a life. The acute risk for suicide is often time-limited. If you can help the
person survive the immediate crisis and overcome the strong intent to die by suicide, you have
gone a long way toward promoting a positive outcome.

4. MYTH: He or she really wouldn’t die by suicide because … he just made plans for a vacation, she
has young children at home, he made a verbal or written promise, she knows how dearly her family
loves her.
REALITY: The intent to die can override any rational thinking. Someone experiencing suicidal
thoughts or intent must be taken seriously and referred to a clinical provider who can further
evaluate his or her condition and provide treatment as appropriate.

Soldier Suicide Prevention Tips

Soldier Suicide Prevention Tips

Suicide Prevention Tip 1: Speak Up If You’re Worried

If you spot the warning signs of solider, veteran or civilian suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to say anything. What if you’re wrong? What if the person gets angry? In such situations, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate help—the sooner the better.

Suicide Prevention Tip 2: Respond Quickly to Prevent an Attempt

If a soldier, veteran, friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it’s important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. Those at the highest risk for suicide in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.

The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:

  • Do you have a suicide plan? (PLAN)
  • Do you have what you need to carry out your plan (pills, gun, etc.)? (MEANS)
  • Do you know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
  • Do you intend to take your own life? (INTENTION)

Suicide Prevention Tip 3: Offer Help and Support

If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility, however, for making your loved one well. You can offer support, but you can’t get better for a suicidal person. He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery.

It takes a lot of courage to help someone who is suicidal. Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts about ending his or her own life can stir up many difficult emotions. As you’re helping a suicidal person, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trust—a friend, family member, clergyman, or counselor—to talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.

More Tips

  • It’s okay to be silent after you’ve started the conversation.
  • Give them room to breathe and time to get comfortable with the topic.
  • Be persistent. Don’t let one attempt turned back be the end.
  • Use good judgement but be persistent in your caring.
  • Suggest or show them options to talk to someone.
  • You’re not the expert, so don’t try to be. Others are ready to help you and use it.

Lift the Burden of Veteran Suicide

 Your $20 gift helps pay off the family’s funeral bills. Not all families need help. Ours do.

Do’s and Dont’s – What To Say To a Suicidal Person


Be Yourself: Let the person know you care, that he/she is not along. The right words are often unimportant. If you are truly caring and concerned, your tone of voice will show it.

Listen: Let the suicidal person unload despair, vent their anger and frustration at their life and the events in it. No matter how negative the conversation seems, having it is a positive sign.

Be Sympathetic: Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about it. Open up your receptors and show your sympathy by being non-judgemental, patient and calm.

Offer Hope: Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feeling are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.

Take the Person Seriously: If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” This will not put ideas into their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it is okay for them to share their pain with you.

EXTRA HELP: If you are at a loss for how to keep the conversation going, or for what to say next, simply repeat that last few words that person said. For example: if they end with “I just don’t know what to do next.” You can say: “What to do next?” And then be quiet while they expand upon that question.


Blame Yourself For Their Feelings: You are not responsible for someone else’s actions.

Argue: Avoid saying things like: “You have so much to live for.” “Your suicide will hurt the ones you’re trying to protect.”

Promise To Tell No One: Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to seek out mental health experts and resources to save it. 

Act Shocked

Lecture on the Value of Life

Say Suicide is Wrong

Say It is Against God’s Plan

Offer To Fix Their Problems

About Once a Soldier

Once a Soldier’s mission is to help the families after a soldier suicide. Most soldier suicides are performed by veterans who have lost touch with the VA and their families won’t be getting any financial help from the government at this critical time. Even when they do, the support is limited. We aspire to fill or close that gap especially when it comes to the heartbreak of paying funeral costs. But this post aspires to be a place where someone in need RIGHT NOW can get some help for themselves or for a loved one who’s thinking about suicide.