“[Approaching a Veteran about suicide] is a conversation that needs to be had because, frankly, the Vet in question probably wants to talk about it,” says Jay Wylie.

Twenty-two active and former military successfully commit suicide each day. On June 2nd, Confidential Recovery, an outpatient substance abuse treatment program in San Diego, partnered with the San Diego Veterans Coalition (SDVOC) to host an educational seminar on how to help prevent suicide.

The event was held ‘in-person,’ and also virtually broadcast via ZOOM, and was both educational and inspirational. Keely Wright from the Veteran’s Administration’s Suicide Prevention Team shared many slides and explanations about the warning signs of suicidal behavior. She explained not only what the “risk factors” are (like having a firearm or a prior suicide attempt), but also what “protective” factors are, which reduce the likelihood of a suicide attempt (like employment and access to mental health care).

Then, with an eye toward saving ‘at-risk’ lives, Keely gave several tips on how to approach a suicidal person, what to ask, how to respond, and how to refer them to help. She also displayed several practical tools, like gun locks and pill boxes, which are designed to delay a rash decision and buy the Veteran some time to re-think an impulsive decision.

Being Proactive When Someone is ‘At-Risk’ of Suicide

One of the key messages of the presentation was the recommendation to approach someone who might be in distress, especially if they have one or more “risk factors.” This can be daunting, but the Veteran (or civilian) in your life deserves that you take this step, and it might save their life. There’s nothing wrong with just asking, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

Confidential Recovery Operations Manager Jay Wylie, a Veteran-in-recovery himself, echoes the need to approach Veterans about suicidal ideation. “It’s a conversation that needs to be had because, frankly, the Vet in question probably wants to talk about it. Being able to share your difficulties with someone who cares can be a huge relief,” says Jay.

Of course, the principles of the training apply to anybody, not just Veterans, although the suicide rate for Veterans is much higher than civilians. Also, the isolation and other challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic served to increase suicide rate amongst both veterans and civilians.

To learn more about how to prevent a Veteran suicide, and find many resources to help, visit the Veterans Administration website about suicide prevention.

More About Confidential Recovery:

Scott H. Silverman, the author of The Opioid Epidemic, created Confidential Recovery in 2014 to provide the men and women of San Diego California a private and highly clinical outpatient treatment program for substance use disorders. Find out more at: https://www.confidentialrecovery.com/.

More about the San Diego Veterans Coalition:

San Diego non-profit was formed in 2009 and serves the needs of San Diego Veterans and their families by holding events and connecting organizations so that we may provide veterans and their families with a complete array of services and other opportunities. Find out more at: https://sdvetscoalition.org/.