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National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

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Be Safe Prevent Self-Harm

It is important to recognize signs that you or someone you know may be in crisis.

What's Important to Know?

People can experience emotional or mental health distress in response to a wide range of situations. Distress may be triggered by troubles such as problems in personal relationships or loss of a job.  This distress can get worse and lead some people to consider hurting or even killing themselves (suicide). In general, Veterans are at a higher risk of suicide than civilians.

These warning signs may indicate that someone is experiencing emotional distress, a crisis and/or possibly having thoughts of suicide:

  • Hopelessness, feeling like there's no way out
  • Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
  • Talking about death, dying, or suicide
  • Feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Feeling like a burden to others
  • Rage or anger
  • Engaging in risky activities without thinking about possible harm
  • Increasing or excessive tobacco, alcohol, or drug abuse
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Feeling overwhelming guilt or shame

These signs require immediate attention:

  • Thinking about killing yourself
  • Looking for ways to kill yourself
  • Self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse, reckless behaviors, weapon use, etc.
  • During times of crisis or hopelessness, consider removing firearms from the home or using a gun lock or gun safe to make them less accessible. Check out VA’s Keep It Secure site: Firearm Suicide Prevention & Lethal Means Safety - REACH (

If you or someone else is in a serious crisis and having thoughts of suicide:

  • Seek immediate help from your health care team or the nearest hospital emergency room
  • Call 911
  • Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 988, Press 1
Logo for Veterans Crisis Line Dial 988 then Press 1

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Want to Know More?

If you want to learn more about how to prevent self-harm or suicide, talk with your VA health care team. Visit VA Suicide Prevention - Mental Health (

There is help for stressors that are making life difficult. Find the right Veteran Resources Quickly and Easily | Don't Wait. Reach out. ( 

VA has a variety of mental health resources, information, treatment options, and more.  Check out VA’s Mental Health options and resources at: VA Mental Health Home (

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