As PAs, you can play a role in veteran suicide prevention. PAs and other healthcare providers are highly likely to see veteran patients who may be at risk of suicide. Successful intervention depends on a provider’s ability to identify the warning signs and make sure that the patient receives immediate care. Most people who commit suicide signal their intention to do so before ending their lives, and they often display these signals to their providers.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs lists several warning signs:
- Hopelessness—feeling like there’s no way out
- Anxiety—agitation, sleeplessness or mood swings
- Feeling like there is no reason to live
- Rage or anger
- Engaging in risky activities without thinking
- Increasing alcohol or drug abuse
- Withdrawing from family and friends
The following signs require immediate attention:
- Thoughts of hurting or killing oneself
- Looking for ways to carry out suicide
- Talking about death, dying or suicide
- Self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse, weapons, etc.
How to communicate to your patient:
- Ask – If someone is thinking of suicide.
- Care – Listen, offer hope, and don’t judge.
- Escort – Take action, don’t leave the person alone, and escort them to assistance.
If you believe a patient is in danger of committing suicide or has made a suicide attempt:
- Don’t leave the person alone.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
- Try to find out if the person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or may have taken an overdose.
- Tell the patient’s family member or friend right away.
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- AboutFace (PTSD awareness)
- Give an Hour (free mental health services to Iraq and Afghanistan vets)
- Real Warriors Campaign (recovery program for veterans and families)
- After Deployment wellness resources
- Signs of Suicide military program
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivor